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

This species was first described by J. Devillers-Terschuren and P. Devillers from Charente, France in 1994. It is a member of the O. obaesa group of Ophrys and its name (sulcata) literally means "with a groove".

O. sulcata has a western sub-Mediterranean distribution somewhat similar to that of O. bilunulata, with which it can frequently be found, particularly in southern France. Its full range takes it from northern Spain, through France as far north as Brittany and more uncommonly into southern Italy and Istria. It is primarily an orchid of alkaline grasslands, pasture and garrigue in full sun. It does however show a marked preference for a moist location and north facing hillside flushes suit it perfectly. Although a very local Ophrys that is unaccountably absent from large and seemingly ideal habitat, it can be abundant in its chosen sites.

The plant is small, as are the flowers which usually number just 4 or 5 and which tend to cluster into a short inflorescence. The sepals, as with the spindly stem and leaves are characteristically yellowish , creating an overall impression of a plant that looks a bit undernourished and sickly !

One of the most important identifying features is the fine but dense hairiness of the lip which gives O. sulcata a distinctive furry appearance. The photographs come from the Provence region of France and Croatia, dating from the last and first week of May respectively.