John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
Home Back to Ophrys species Links

Ophrys incubacea
 

O. incubacea is a widespread orchid, first described from Sicily in 1842, its name meaning "of smaller size". Quite why it was thus named is something of a mystery as it is not a particularly small Ophrys,  growing up to 60 cms tall and bearing up to 10 medium sized flowers. 

It is a Mediterranean plant and although it reaches the eastern Adriatic coast, it does not extend beyond Albania, possible sightings on Corfu seem unlikely and unconfirmed. O. incubacea is a common orchid and is probably at the height of its abundance in the southern half of Italy, Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily. Its not a hugely variable Ophrys, though it readily hybridizes and often produces swarms of confusing offspring. At a well known site in Sicily it has formed such a swarm in combination with O. speculum , the results being quite beautiful (see page O. speculum x incubacea) .

The sepals are sometimes vaguely pinkish but more usually a pale green with the petals being rather variable in both size and colouration. The  stigmatic cavity has a conspicuous white exterior which contrasts strongly with the dark brown or red lip colouration and this in itself is an important diagnostic feature. Perhaps the most characteristic feature of O. incubacea is the hairiness which is normally long and course and which in some examples can produce an almost spiky appearance. In southern Italy it can be easily confused with the rarer and somewhat smaller O. brutia.

The pictures here are from various Mediterranean locations including Sicily, Spain and Croatia with the Sicilan specimens dating from Mid April and those from Croatia during early May.