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

O. classica was first described by Devillers-Terschuren and Devillers from Monte Argentaria in 2000. It is a member of the 12 strong O. exaltata group whose name literally means "of the fleet" and refers to the   species preference for coastal habitats. It is rarely found more than a few miles inland of the Tyrrhenian coastline.  

This Ophrys is an Italian endemic with a range that was originally thought to be limited to the coast and hinterlands from the Grosetto area of southern Tuscany to the Latium region, south of Rome. It is now however thought to be more widespread and reported with certainty from Puglia. O. classica is at its most frequent in the Monte Argentaria area and its here that its range overlaps with several other closely related species. This assembly of morphologically similar Ophrys frequently causes difficulty with identification and despite the individual taxons having distinct distinguishing features, years of introgression have created intermediate populations which defy diagnosis. There are in fact three other species with which it may be found in flower concurrently, O. argentariaO.tarquinia and the ubiquitous O. sphegodes.

Typically O. classica is significantly the largest flowered of these species and can appear as early as late February. The following characteristics are indicative of the species :- 1. The Specular pattern is usually (but not absolutely) a simple reddish/mauve H. 2. Basal swellings are normally large, forward pointing and hairless on the inner surface. 3. The species shows a preference for moist environments and is seldom found far away from the Italian coastline. 4. The outer wall of the stigmatic cavity is noticeabaly whiter and shinier than in any of the other three species.