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

O. leochroma is an eastern Mediterranean representative of the O. tenthredenifera group whose name is a reference to its hairy lip, thought to resemble a lions mane. Until recently this taxon was considered to be within the natural varietal range of O. villosa but later studies and perhaps most importantly, work carried out in Crete by Delforge (2005) has now determined that, as had been suspected, O. villosa is not a single species but a polytipic taxon which has now been split to include four new species. (O. dictynnae, O. ulyssea , O. korae and O. leochroma)

Of the now five species, O. villosa is the latest to bloom in mid March but it has much the shortest season, being largely finished by early April, at which time the longer lasting O. leochroma, which first appeared at much the same time, will still be in full flower. As a result of the reclassifications, O. leochroma is the most widely distributed, being found in continental Greece, the Aegean and Turkey. O. ulyssea is found only on the Ionian Islands, O. dictynnae on Crete, O. korae on Rhodes and Samos and O. villosa restricted to Crete, the larger Aegean islands and  Anatolia. The biggest overlap in range is between O. villosa and O. leochroma, though differentiating the two in the field is reasonably straightforward by virtue of the significantly larger flower size of O. leochroma. Separating the two by photographic means can be more problematic and sometimes impossible, as although there are some formally described morphological differences, these do not seem to be unique and can be inconclusive in many cases.

O. leochroma usually exhibits a darker lip, or at least a larger area of brown in the centre of the labellum, though the authors cannot find any particular evidence for this. Although O. villosa may more often be paler, both species appear to produce darker morphs. O. leochroma is reported to be a more robust plant with a larger number of flowers per stem but again, whilst this may be a fair generalisation, it is not diagnostic.  In reality, the only sure way to separate the species is in the field by study of flower size, flowering period and where possible by identification of the pollinator.