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

This is one of seven members of the O. fuciflora group that was first formally described by Bartolo and Pulvirenti in 1997 from the Siracusa region of Sicily. O. calliantha is endemic to that island where although often plentiful in its preferred locations, it's extremely local in its overall distribution.

Its name means "beautiful flower" and it undoubtedly lives up to this title being both brightly coloured and  distinctively marked. It is perhaps the easiest of the Sicilian fuciflorids to recognize, though as with the  other species, it frequently suffers genetic inteference which can complicate identification. Several of these pictures depict specimens which exhibit non typical features and probably fall into this  category.

The "typical" O. calliantha  has pink to purple sepals, matching petals and a boldly patterned speculum with   strong white to lemon yellow lining that can sometimes be so thick as to form a complete blotch. Anyone familiar with O. candica could be forgiven for thinking they were back in the Aegean as the two species are morphologically remarkably similar. This Ophrys  has variously been regarded over the years as a sub species of O. fuciflora,  O.oxyrrhynchos  and unsurprisingly O. candica.

A fellow Sicilian endemic, O. biancae  is an adept impersonator of all its fuciflorid cousins but is both a  significantly smaller and earlier flower. As with O. lacaitae, O. calliantha is a late starter and will be coming into bloom when O. biancae is well past its best.

The illustrations are all from the south east of Sicily, east of Ferla and date from the last week of April.