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

D. markusii was first described from Palermo, Sicily in 1846 and named in honour of Doctor Markus, a
physician to the then Russian empress ?  

This is a rare orchid of the D. sambucina group which has a  western Mediterranean  distribution  very
similar to that of A. longicornu  IE:- north Africa, Spain and the Balaerics, southern Italy, Sicily, Malta
and Sardinia.  It grows  on neutral to acidic substrates in full sun or mid shade and shows a preference
for open  montane  woodland.  D. markusii  can  very easily  be  confused  with  D. romana  though  their
individual  habitat  preferences limit (but by no  means  eliminate)  contact  between  the two  species.

Some of the  pictures here come from the Ficuzza forest in Sicily where the plants were to be found at
a significantly higher altitude than the far more numerous D. romana. Nonetheless there were contact zones where differentiating the two could be difficult. The following features are characteristic. :-
1. The lateral lobes are more heavily scalloped (photos 3 and 4 illustrate this very well).  2. The bracts
are slightly longer and even in a fully opened inflorescence they protrude beyond the tip of the topmost
flower. 3. D. markusii  is invariably a yellowish, white colour and although a red variety has been recorded extremely rarely from Sicily, red flowered plants elsewhere will be D. romana. 4. It is an early flowerer
and by mid April will be past its best at a time when D. romana is still in its prime.

The photographs come from Sicily and southern Spain, dating from the middle of April.