John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Ophrys ferrum-equinum f subtriloba
 

O. ferrum-equinum was first described by Desfontaines from the Greek island of Samos in 1807,  and its name refers to the horseshoe shaped speculum marking which also gives it its common name of the Horseshoe Orchid.

This species has a localized but wide distribution in the eastern Mediterranean, centred on Greece but reaching as far as Albania to the North,  Crete to the south and Anatolia to the east. Although as has been mentioned, it has a very localized distribution, it can be abundant in its preferred locations,  sometimes presenting a waving sea of dark,  black flowers across swathes of otherwise featureless garrigue.

O. ferrum- equinum is a variable orchid, prone to genetic interference from other nearby Ophrys and with the consequence that identification can sometimes be problematic. There are however some recognized and named variations, of which "parnassica" and "subtriloba" are the most frequent. Some authorities also regard O. labiosa as another variation rather than as a species in it's own right. 

O. ferrum-equinum f subtriloba is reconizable by its lip which is always three lobed, with lateral lobes that can often take a distinct arm like form (see first picture).  It always grows amongst colonies of the type species and although it can occur anywhere within the range of O. ferrum-equinum, it seems to be at its most frequent in the islands of the middle Aegean basin. Where it occurs within these colonies it is invariably surrounded by plants that are intermediate between type and form and this variation is depicted in the illustrations.







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