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


O. fabrella was first described from Mallorca by Paulus and Ayasse in 2004 and belongs to the small O. obaesa group of Ophrys. Its name refers to the orchids pollinator, Andrena fabrella .

This species is endemic to the Balearic Islands and can be found growing in full sun positions within various habitat types, though always on calcareous substrates. It is a highly localised species but in its preferred conditions can occur in significant numbers, often forming loose colonies over large areas. O. fabrella is a short, very small flowered species and very much brings to mind the similarly small Sardinian endemic, O. ortuabis. A species closely resembling O. fabrella has recently been described from Formentera, the plant although possessing small flowers, can grow to an astonishing 60cms. A decision is  awaited as to its status.

O. fabrella is unmistakable due to its small size and lax inflorescence, it is however superficially similar to the larger flowered O. bilunulata, a species with which it is known to hybridize. Intermediates are well known and in fact these hybrids are thought to be backcrosses given that a study in 2009 suggested O. fabrella probably evolved from later flowering O. bilunulata which had recruited a new pollinator (Andrena fabrella).

As with O. bilunulata the lip is bordered by a complete yellow margin which can be of varying thickness but which is always present. The plant typically reaches 10 to 15 cms with just one or two flowers, rarely three, sitting aloft the slender stem and small basal rosette of yellow green leaves. The pictures are from Mallorca and date from the first week of April at which time many plants were already beginning to fade.