Abstract The breeding system in Orchidaceae generates many questions about the selfing potential of its representatives. We investigated the ability of spontaneous autogamy of four orchid species: Cephalanthera rubra and Neottia ovata of the Neottieae tribe and Gymnadenia conopsea and Platanthera bifolia of the Orchideae tribe. These species represent diverse specializations of the gynostemium architecture. The self-compatibility and properties of autogamous seeds were determined in a bagging experiment and seed development analysis. After induced autogamy, a high level of fruiting (80-100%) was noted in all of the four study species. C. rubra, N. ovata, and G. conopsea are completely self-compatible, and P. bifolia is suggested to be partially self-compatible. If autogamy occurred, inbreeding depression and resource limitation on seed development appeared only in the two Orchideae species. Independent of flower specialization, both Neottieae species and P. bifolia were completely allogamous, whereas G. conopsea could be facultatively autogamous.