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Ophrys episcopalis

episcopalis was first described from Crete by Poiret in 1816 and it is a member of the widespread and  largely Eastern Mediterranean basd Obornmuelleri group of Ophrys.

This is one of many Aegean species that has been the subject of a great deal of study in recent years and although there is currently a reasonable degree of agreement amongst the experts, it seems highly likely that the definitive position has not yet been fully established and further splitting may follow.

Up until the turn of the 20th century most authorities believed that the O. bornmuelleri group on Crete was represented solely by O. episcopalis but that there were separate populations of an earlier flowering Ophrys which had become known as O. maxima (subsequently O. colossaea) . Both these species were thought to occur  elsewhere in the Aegean and particularly Rhodes. Research by Paulus and Hirth in 2009 has now confirmed that in fact the two species share the same pollinator and are in fact a single taxon. Given that the pollinator is endemic to Crete, it follows that the plants from other areas thought to be O. episcopalis and O. maxima are in fact separate species.

The only real source of confusion when identifying O. episcopalis is the presence on Crete of the very similar O.helios which was first diescibed by Kreutz in 2001. They are very similar indeed and although the latter species is a later flowerer, they may both be found concurrently, particularly in April. O. episcopalis does however have a larger flower and appears rather more narrow at the shoulders, with less widely separated basal swellings. Both of these species are hugely variable and appear in forms that closely resemble the O. calypsus variants. We are confident that this species will receive further repositioning.