The utility of the PCR-based AFLP technique (polymerase chain reactions amplified fragment length polymorphisms) was explored in elucidating details of polyploid evolution in the Eurasian orchid genus Dactylorhiza. We emphasized Swedish taxa but also included some material from the British Isles and elsewhere in Europe. Three different sets of primers, amplifying different subsets of restriction fragments, independently revealed similar patterns for relationships among the Dactylorhiza samples investigated. The AFLP data support the general picture of polyploid evolution in Dactylorhiza, i.e., that allotetraploid derivatives have arisen repeatedly as a result of hybridization beween the two parental groups D. incarnata s.l. (sensu lato; diploid marsh orchids) and the D. maculata group (spotted orchids), Within the incarnata s.l. group. morphologically defined varieties were interdigitated. The D. maculata group consisted of two distinct subgroups, one containing autotetraploid D. maculata subsp. maculata and the other containing diploid D. maculata subsp. fuchsii. Allotetraploids showed a high degree of additivity for the putative parental genomes, and relationships among them were partly correlated to morphologically based entities. but also to geographic distribution. Thus, allotetraploid taxa from the British Isles clustered together, rather than with morphologically similar plants from other areas.