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

This is one of the  eastern  Mediterranean's rarer Ophrys occurring only in the eastern   Aegean basin, Anatolia and Crete.  It's a member of  the O. omegaifera  group  and  takes its name    from Sitia, this being the district of Crete from where it was first described in 1988.

O. sitiaca  is  generally thought to be of hybrid origin with  O. omegaifera and  one of the O.fusca   group as the genetic contributers. This hybrid background almost certainly accounts for   its variability and the consequent difficulties with identification. Crete is very much viewed as the     home of this Ophrys and other populations outside of the island are now being carefully studied. In    Lesbos and Chios the later flowering plants once assumed to be O. sitiaca have now been split off   and reclassified as either O. pelinea or O. polycratis. It is highly probable that further   species revision will occur over the coming years.

Attempting  to  give advice on identification of this species is  all  but impossible and perhaps the    only consistent feature amongst the many descriptions we have studied, is the flowering time which    is generally but not unanimously held to be very early (January to March). In theory O. sitiaca   should be finished on Lesbos before O. pelinea starts and on Crete O. omegaifera will still be    some three weeks away from flowering by the time O. sitiaca is dead and gone. Delforge himself    concedes that O. sitiaca is a difficult and variable taxon that can exhibit characteristics of both    its O. fusca and O. omegaifera lineage. Photos are from Rhodes, Lesbos and Chios and date from the   last two weeks of March (rather late  for this species ?).