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

Ophrys lutea

This species was first described by Cavanilles from Spain in 1753 and is probably the most familiar of the "yellow bee orchids" throughout the Mediterranean.  

As may be seen from the pictures, the flowers of O. lutea can be highly variable in structure, colour and size but there are nonetheless several characteristics which are generally consistent throughout the populations. Firstly, the flowers are the largest of the O. lutea group and its also the only species where  its flowers are held at an angle of 45 degrees (or less) to the stem, both O. sicula and O. phryganae will usually hold their flowers almost horizontally. The second feature that is widely taken to be a reliable distinguishing characteristic, is the longitudinal basal prominences, which create both a deep central groove and a noticeable kink at the top of the labellum. The lateral lobes are rounded and the sinuses usually (though by no means always) closed or overlapping the median lobe, which creates the impression of a complete wavy yellow margin. This species has a long flowering season, running from February to June and generally a month later than the smaller and less widespread O. sicula.

O. lutea has a widespread distribution that takes in Atlantic, Mediterranean and Adriatic countries from the Iberian peninsula as far east as Crete, it is however, at its most abundant in the west of its range. The pictures here come from Gargano, the Peloponnese and Sicily where in the last of these regions it co-exists with no less than six other yellow Pseudophrys species. Unsurprisingly,  hybridization is common and the identification of intermediates can be testing to say the least.