To obtain further information on the polyploid dynamics of the the Dactylorhiza incarnata/maculata polyploid complex and the origin of the allotetraploid D. sphagnicola ( Orchidaceae), plastid DNA variation was studied in 400 plants from from Sweden and elsewhere in Europe and Asia Minor by means of polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphisms (PCR-RFLPs) and sequencing. Allotetraploid taxa in Europe are known have evolved by multiple independent polyploidization events following hybridization between the same set of two distinct ancestral lineages. Most allotetraploids have inherited the plastid genome from parents similar to D. maculata sensu lato, which includes, e. g. the diploid D. fuchsii and the autotetraploid D. maculata sensu stricto. D. sphagnicola carries a separate plastid haplotype different from the one found in other allotetraploid taxa, which is in agreement with an independent origin from the parental lineages. Some of the remaining allotetraploids have local distributions and appear to be of postglacial origin, whereas still other allotetraploids may be of higher age, carrying plastid haplotypes that have not been encountered in present day representatives of the parental lineages. Introgression and hybridization between diploids and allotetraploids, and between different independently derived allotetraploids may further have contributed to genetic diversity at the tetraploid level. Overall, the Dactylorhiza polyploid complex illustrates how taxon diversity and genetic diversity may be replenished rapidly in a recently glaciated area.