John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Ophrys phryganae v cretica



O. phryganae is a member of the ever increasing O. lutea group of Ophrys and was first described by Devillers and Devillers-Terschuren from Crete in 1991. Its name refers to the plant phrygana which gives its name to a habitat type, particularly in Greece. Although widespread through the central and eastern Mediterranean this species is not generally found in the huge numbers that can be the case with O. sicula and O. lutea. The fact that it grows individually or in smaller groups and often amongst large colonies of its commoner cousins, probably accounts in part for its perceived scarcity. In fact we suspect it is a much overlooked orchid that may be locally common.

Identification is not particularly difficult and there are two important features to look for when attempting to separate it from its cousins. The first differentiator is its small size, around half that of O. lutea, the second feature is the flower's side on profile. Picture 2 clearly shows the prominent basal prominences and geniculation which give the lip the look of a swollen knee joint. This characteristic is not as evident when viewed face on (as can be seen from the illustration opposite). O. sicula is of a similar size but its longitudinal profile is comparatively flat. O. phryganae from Crete presents a distinctly different appearance by virtue of its increased pilosity and this hairiness is not limited to the lip margins but spreads to a greater or lesser extent across the speculum.

Whether these Cretan plants are conspecific with populations outside the island has not been established but they are clearly at variance with type and as with many other Cretan Ophrys may yet prove to be of evolutionary significance.