Plants herbaceous, with flat, palmately divided tuberoids. Stem solid or ± hollow, leafy. Leaves usually crowded near base, with or without purplish spots. Inflorescence cylindric, few to many-flowered. Bracts herbaceous, the lower exceeding the purplish, yellowish or rarely white flowers. Flowers resupinate. Dorsal sepal ± erect, connivent with slightly shorter petals, forming a loose hood; lateral sepals ± spreading. Labellum with basal spur, entire or 3-lobed, with darker colored pattern of lines and dots. Column short; anther erect, bilocular, basally firmly united with the column; pollinia clavate, with caudicles, each with a separate viscid gland, both enclosed in a single pouch (bursicula); stigma entire, slightly concave. Ovary sessile, ± twisted, glabrous.
Approximately 25-30 taxa (species and subspecies), growing in marshy places, all more or less variable and sometimes equivocal to determinate as numerous intermediates occur, resulting in free hybridisation when several species overlap in nearby habitats.
Distribution: Europe, Mediterranean area and Madeira, N.W. America (Alasca), S.W. and N.Asia, Himalaya Mts.3 species occur in Pakistan.
Averyanow in Bot. Zhurn. 68(4):534(1983) reported recently on new species of Dactylorhiza from Central Asia (kept in LE), which have close affinities with Dactylorhiza umbrosa and Dactylorhiza kafiriana, and which also grow in Pakistan territory. According to the description Dactylorhiza baldshuanica Czern. from Turkestan, a robust plant growing in lower regions (c.900 m) and characterized by a thinner spur and a usually roundish, 3-lobed labellum, is near to Dactylorhiza umbrosa; furthermore Dactylorhiza kulikalonica Czern., also from Turkestan, occuring at high altitudes (3000-3300 m) and Dactylorhiza czernikowskee Aver. From Tadzhikistan, seem both to be related to Dactylorhiza kafiriana, having in common the slender appearance and a lax, usually few-flowered inflorescence but on the other side an ± orbicular labellum, resembling rather to Dactylorhiza umbrosa or Dactylorhiza hatagirea.
Infrageneric Hybrids of Dactylorhiza
The following putative hybrid can be observed either in areas where Dactylorhiza kafiriana dominates, as in Chitral or where Dactylorhiza hatagirea occurs nearly exclusively, as in Hazara:
Dactylorhiza hatagirea (D. Don) Sod x Dactylorhiza kafiriana Renz
B-6 Chitral: Bomboret Valley, wet meadows near Shakha Non Deh, 2400-2500 m Renz obs. B-7 Swat: Ushu Valley, above Matiltan, 2400 m, Renz 10974 (Hb. Renz) Hazara: Kaghan Valley, Naran, 2400-2600 m, Renz obs.