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

O. ariadnae  was first described from Crete by Paulus in 1994 and is a member of the O. reinholdii group of Ophrys.  It was named after Ariadne, who in Greek mythology was one of the twelve children fathered by King Minos.

This species is a Greek endemic being found in the Cyclades, Karpathos and in Crete where it is not uncommon on the eastern side of the island.  It is a very similar plant to O. cretica and on Crete itself, the two species frequently hybridize, producing populations of intermediates whose true identity can be very difficult to establish with certainty. O. ariadnae will also readily hybridize with other species of Ophrys and picture nine depicts an unusual cross with O. episcopalis.

Distinguishing between O. ariadnae and O. cretica is relatively straightforward where there has not been any genetic interference and two features in particular serve to separate the taxons. The first of these is the flowering period with the former species coming into bloom up to a month before its close relative. Although there is an overlap in flowering, O. ariadnae will be well past its best as O. cretica begins to show. The second differentiating feature is a morphological one and this is the size of the stigmatic cavity, which in O. ariadnae is significantly smaller. This feature is quite noticeable in pictures one, two and four but less so in others, which may well be intermediates. A further but less reliable difference is the specular pattern which in O. ariadnae is often both more complex and more extensive.

This species can be found in flower as early as February and will be over by the end of April. The pictures are all from Crete and date from the last week of March.