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


This often abundant Ophrys is essentially an Italian orchid though it may be found around the Adriatic  coasts of the  former Yugoslavia, southern France (rarely) and on the island of Corfu. It was first described from Genoa (Italy) in 1823 by the eminent 19th century Italian botanist Signor Antonio Bertoloni.

O. bertolonii is quite distinctive and readily identifiable but does come into contact with other similar   Ophrys in certain parts of its range. In the north it overlaps with O. aurelia, in the Gargano region it often  grows side by side with  O. bertoloniformis  and in Sicily it encounters the very rare but very similar  O. explanata .

The differences between this plant and the latter are described under O. explanata but mainly involve the  size and shape of the stigmatic cavity. With O. bertoloniformis there are clear differences but in Gargano where the two associate closely,  hybridization is common and accurate identification can be a less than straightforward process. In genetically pure populations O.  bertiloniformis can be distinguished by the lack of hollow walls in the stigmatic cavity and the green sepals.

Picture 11 depicts an example from southern Italy where white sepals are relatively common. The other pictures are all from either Gargano or Sicily and date from the middle weeks of April. It is however quite  possible to find O. bertolonii in flower at any time between March and June as it enjoys a very long  flowering period that is closely associated with the variable emergence of its two pollinating bee species.  


The following three pictures come from Sicily and are presumably hybrids although the precise genetic contributors are unknown. The final picture is particularly interesting as it depicts a plant that has a striking resemblance to  O. bertiloniformis, an orchid only found on the Gargano peninsula.