This review is based on recent molecular studies of Dactylorhiza (Orchidaceae). Most of the studies have focused on the allotetraploid members of the genus in general and on D. majalis ssp. lapponica in particular. It was concluded that most of the allotetraploid taxa have derived from hybridizations between the parental lineages D. maculata s.l. and D. incarnata s.l., with D. maculata s.l. serving as the seed parent. Evidence of multiple origins was found both among northern European allotetraploids as well as among Greek allotetraploids. Introgression from both parental lineages and hybridizations between independently derived polyploid lineages was also detected. The three morphologically similar taxa D. majalis ssp. traunsteineri, ssp. lapponica and ssp. russowii should be treated as one and most of the Greek allotetraploids should be regarded as regional variants of the southeastern European D. majalis ssp. cordigera. The Balkans and the Alps most probably served as refugia for the genus during the last glaciations and at least two waves of immigration reached Scandinavia. Finally, we suggest that the conservation of allotetraploid Dactylorhiza should emphasize important geographic areas and habitats and that the allopolyploids should have the same conservation status as the diploids.