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


O. corsica was the name first employed by J. F. Soleirol in the mid 19th century to describe a not uncommon yellow Ophrys growing on the island of Corsica. It then disappeared from the botanical map and although occasionally referred to by several botanists, the species was not formally described until 2002 when G and W Foelsche completed a paper in which they proposed, perhaps more accurately resurrected two long forgotten species, Ophrys corsica and Orchis corsica.

Despite the paper's comprehensive description, O. corsica is a difficult species to identify in the field and this is further complicated by considerable professional disagreement about several aspects of its existence IE :- distribution,  morphology and the presence or otherwise of similar taxons. O. corsica is known with certainty from Corsica and Sardinia and more dubiously from the Provinces of Calabria, Lecce and Apulia on the Italian mainland. In Sardinia it can be distinguished from O. lepida by its considerably smaller size, whilst on both islands it is separable from O. sicula by the greater basal geniculation and the fact that the flowers are not held horizontally to the stem. The major problem with identification arises with the very similar O. phryganae, which is similarly small, similarly geniculated and held at a similar angle. The professional disagreement mentioned earlier, is largely centred on this species, some believing that they are one and the same, whilst others do not accept the existence of O. phryganae in the islands, regarding O. corsica as a morphologically alike but separately evolved taxon. An additional complication arises in the fact that O. corsica is pollinated by the same insect as O. sicula ?

Hybridization is a significant factor and in both Sardinia and Corsica plants of different sizes and intermediate characteristics are easily found. Overall the current understanding of the O. lutea group in both Sardinia and Corsica is unsatisfactory and would benefit from further research.