Dactylorhiza lapponica are few places in the Alps, in Scotland and the Hebrides, and mostly throughout the Scandinavian mountain range. In Norway the southernmost occurrence of Dactylorhiza lapponica Ringerike and Toten in Eastern Norway. Furthermore, it is the northern part of Norway, Smøla, Surnadal and as far North as Alta in Finnmark. It is lime-demanding, growing in extreme rich fen, by calcareous springs and stream edges. This is not a common plant in mountain bogs, but where it exists it can occur in large numbers. It is up to 1,000 meters in southern Norway, while in northern Norway are down towards the sea.
Dactylorhiza lapponica is a contentious species. It has until the 1970s been split into two species where the plants in southern Scandinavia was previously regarded as a separate species. Northern plants are slightly smaller and more slender than the southern plants have wider and flatter leaves. But the differences are so small that they are currently regarded as the same species. The name Dactylorhiza lapponica got it by Lars Levi Laestadius as, for without his service as preacher among the Sami, was a botanist of his time. Lars Levi Laestadius travelled around Scandinavia with plant presses, pen and paper, preferably where no other botanists had been before. In 1840 he found this orchid in Arjeplog in Lapland and gave it the scientific name Orchis lapponica. But the genus Orchis have testicle-like tubers which Dactylorhiza lapponica not have (hand-lobed), and was later put in the genus Dactylorhiza. According Botanical nomenclature shall the Latin epithet lapponica still apply.
When you meet this orchid on the mountain marshes, you can see definitely that it has its own identity with bright colors in red-violet and brown. The flowers sit on a short axis which carry from 6 to 13 colorful flowers with dark reddish purple and they are relatively large for a low-growing plant with height 15-25 cm. Flower lip usually has a semicircular pattern and are shallow three lobed with easy rearward edges. Axis is dark reddish purple to brown violet down to the lowermost flower stalk. Stems are usually 3-4 leaves, but can have up to five dark green leaves with dark-brown spots.
Swedish chromosome studies have shown that the species is closely related to Dactylorhiza majalis (not in Norway) and both species have chromosome numbers 2n = 80. In Sweden there are large distances between occurrences of Dactylorhiza lapponica and Dactylorhiza majalis. In the Alps there is a short distance between these species. Some botanists believe it may have arisen through hybridization of D. fuchsii and D. incarnata. This is not difficult to imagine when you can see D. lapponica grow along with D. fuchsii and D. incarnata.