John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Dactylorhiza insularis

D. insularis was first described by Landwehr from Giglio, Sardinia in 1895 and is a member of the D. sambucina group of Dactylorhiza. Its name literally means island, this presumably reflecting its original discovery on the island of Sardinia.

This species is restricted to the western Mediterranean in a range that takes it from southern Tuscany, Corsica and Sardinia westwards to south western France, Spain and Portugal. It is at its most frequent in central and northern Spain where it is found in open woodland and poor grassland on acidic soils, usually on high ground at altitudes up to 2000 metres. In the east of its range, particularly Corsica and Tuscany its a very rare orchid, although on Sardinia, despite being extremely local, can sometimes be found in large colonies.

D. insularis is similar to its close relative D. markusii but the latter is predominantly a more southerly species and the overlap in range is small, perhaps just in small areas of the Iberian peninsula. D. markusii also lacks the characteristic red dots to the centre of the lip. A species that does frequently appear with D. insularis however is O. provincialis, an Orchis with similar flower colouration and red markings. The two can however be easily distinguished by the usually heavy black leaf spotting and lack of prominent bracts on O. provincialis.

D. insularis is unique within the D. sambucina group by virtue of not appearing in both red and yellow forms, although in Spain there exists a variety "bartonii" where the typical four small spots on the lip have reduced to two larger tear drop shaped markings. The pictures are from the mountains of central Sardina and date from the fourth week of April.