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Ophrys cephalonica


O. cephalonica was first described from the Ionian island of Cephalonia (Greece) by Baumann and Baumann in 1984 and was at first referred to as O. sphegodes subsp cephalonica. It was subsequently reclassified and is now regarded as a member of the widespread O. exaltata group of Ophrys, which is more commonly distributed in countries to the north and west of Greece.

This species was until recently the sole Greek representative of the O. exaltata group but has now been accompanied by the newly reclassified O. negadensis.  Interestingly, as with this latter species, it shows characteristics such as purple tinting on the lateral sepals, that seem to suggest hybridogenous development involving O. mammosa sl.  As can be noted from the photos, it is of highly variable appearance, capable of resembling O. arachnitiformis at one extreme and O. zeusii at the other. The most consistent identifying feature is the band of hair around the lip, which in this species is complete but which in O. mammosa group members is limited to the shoulders and upper basal half. O. cephalonica is normally dullish brown or dirty orange, with a basal field similarly coloured to that of the centre of the lip. It often resembles O. grammica in colouration and form but will lack the more developed basal swellings.

Its range is limited to the Ionian islands and adjacent mainand coastal areas where it flowers in March and April in largely lowland scrub, garrigue and light woodland. The Ophrys of northern Greece can be a difficult group to separate with the highly variable O. cephalonia being no exception and one which may well be rationalized in the not too distant future.

The pictures are from the Thesprotia region of mainland Greece and date from late April.