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

O. philippi
was first described by Grenier from Var, France in 1859 and is named after the French botanist M. Y. Philippe. It is a member of the O. scolopax group of Ophrys.

This is a highly distinctive Ophrys that needs very little description,  not only because of its quite unique appearance but also due to the well known story attached to its disappearance in 1912 and subsequent rediscovery by Blais in 2000. Whilst it is a familiar orchid, it is also an extremely rare one that survives in just a few sites in the hills north of Toulon. Its true status is not known with certainty and there has been much professional debate about its lineage, its correct taxonomic grouping and even its name. The species is variously considered to be in the O. scolopax group or the O. tetraloniae group where some authorities are linking it to O. santonica, a species found in the same region.

It appears to be of hybrid origin and Delforge speculates that the original progenitors are likely to  be a member of the O. scolopax group, together with O. apifera f botteronii. Others agree with the O. scolopax link but believe the second parent is more likely to hail from the O. sphegodes stable.

O. philippi is a late flowerer, appearing in mid to late May at much the same time as O. apifera and prefers rough dry banks and woodland edges on calcareous soils in full sun. It is a surprisingly stocky plant which when in bud can easily be mistaken for O. apifera with which it often grows.

The pictures date from the 18th of May at which time the buds were only just opening.