John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Ophrys argentaria

O. argentaria
was first described by Devillers-Terschuren and Devillers from Monte Argentaria in 1991 and  is a member of the 12 strong O. exaltata group.

This Ophrys is an Italian endemic with a range from La Spezia in the north to the Latium region south of  Rome. As its name suggests O. argentaria is at its most frequent in the Grosetto area of southern Tuscany  and it's in this area that its range overlaps with several other closely related species that can cause a great  deal of confusion with identification.  

There are realistically three other species which may be found in flower concurrently with O. argentaria  between March and early May, namely O. classica, O. tarquinia and the ubiquitous O. sphegodes. All these  species have individual distinguishing features but years of gene ingression has made identification in the  field a painstaking business where the "balance of probabilities" is often resorted to.

The following characteristics are typical of O. argentaria  but as can be seen from the photographs, these are by no means infallible indicators. 1; Importantly it is the smallest flowered of the four species.  2; The speculum pattern is complex and often broken.  3; Basal swellings are normally small or absent.  3; It tends to be a shorter plant,  spindlier than the other species and with a laxer inflorescence.

O. argentaria is a local orchid but can grow in large numbers in its favoured locations. Although generally  associated with  alkaline  soils,  it will tolerate slightly acidic or sandy conditions. All the photographs come  from Tuscany, between Sienna and Monte Argentaria, dating from the first week of April.