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

Ophrys leucophthalma

O. leucophthalma was first described from Preveza (Greece) by Devillers and Devillers-Terschuren in 1994 and is a member of the large and ever growing O. mammosa group of Ophrys. Its name refers to the white pseudo-eyes.

The range of this species is not known with certainty due to confusion with other similar group members and not least O. hystera  with which it shares several morphological characteristics, as well as a late flowering period from May to June. As with O. hystera it is a striking and often colourful flower that is easily separated from the normally more drab O. mammosa.  It's a relatively common plant in the northern half of continental Greece and is also known from northwestern Anatolia.

O. leucophthalma is not a tall plant and normally carries very few flowers, often bearing only one or perhaps two. As already mentioned it is not a rare orchid and can sometimes grow in huge colonies covering a wide area. The flower is usually a uniform purple with a prominent, sometimes complex speculum, consisting of slate grey lining with broad white edging. This edging can often be so thick that the pattern seems to be completely white. The median lobe is always entire and supports two large basal swellings that are usually hairless and white on the inner face. The labellum may be bordered with a yellow band but this is frequently difficult to observe due to strong re-curvature of the lobe.

Perhaps the most significant identifying feature is the upper stigmatic cavity (vault) which is snowy white and strongly linked to the equally white external walls. The photos are all from northern Greece and date from the second week of May at a time when O. mammosa was well past its best and in some areas completely finished.