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

O. cretica was first described from Crete by Nelson in 1916 and is a member of the nine strong O. reinholdii group of Ophrys.

Despite its name, this species is not confined to Crete and may be found sporadically throughout the southern Aegean, Laconia in the southern Peloponnese and very rarely in Cyprus. It is however true that O. cretica is at its most frequent in eastern Crete, where it grows, sometimes abundantly, in full sun or part shade on dry calcareous substrates. It exists in two quite distinct forms which for the present we will refer to as O. cretica var cretica and O. cretica var bicornuta. The latter is similarly marked but possesses a shorter, plumper median lobe and importantly, longer horn like lateral lobes. The taxonomic status of bicornuta is not a matter of universal agreement, with some referring to it as simply a variation whilst  others accord it full species status (Devillers and Devillers-Terschuren 2009).

In most parts of its range its distinct appearance easily separates it from other Ophrys but in Crete O. cretica grows in close association with the extremely similar O. ariadnae. In their typical forms, distinguishing characteristics can be noted but unfortunately natural variation and frequent hybridization can blur the distinctions and confuse identification. Typically O. cretica has a larger stigmatic cavity, a specular pattern that is less complex and flowers up to a month later. In Cyprus O. cretica is uncommon but the authors have found it growing alongside the endemic and more widespread O. kotschyi, a plant of the same group and with many morphological similarities.

The photographs all depict O. cretica var cretica and come from Crete in the first week of April.