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

O. tarquinia was first described by Delforge from Livorno, Tuscany in 2000 and is a member of the twelve strong O. exaltatagroup whose name refers to the Tarquins, the Etruscan Kings of Rome between   759 and 503 BC ( the first of these being Romulus ).
This Ophrys is an Italian endemic with a range which is virtually limited toTuscany. O. tarquinia is at its most frequent away from the coast in the Firenze region but can still be relatively common as far south as  Grosetto and it's in this area in particular that its range overlaps with several other closely related species that can cause real problems with identification. There are three species here which may be found in flower concurrently with O.tarquinia namely O. argentaria, O. classica and the ubiquitous O. sphegodes sphegodes. These species all have individual distinguishing features but years of gene ingression has made identification in the field a painstaking business  where for the  amateur, the "balance of probabilities" is often the only and last resort.  

Perhaps the the most striking and obvious feature that differentiates O. tarquinia is its large size in comparison to these other similar Ophrys. Less reliably the following characteristics can be indicative ;-  1; Speculum pattern is often complex and elaborate.  2; Basal swellings are normally small or absent. 3; The petals are long and strongly undulate. 4; The basal rosette is bluish grey and the stem sturdy. 

The pictures all come from sites in southern Tuscany between Siena and Grosetto.    

The following six photographs are some abnormal examples of O. tarquinia. The first three pictures are from Monte Argentaria (where this species is not at all common) and in this instance is a semi-hypochromatic specimen. Amongst the features that indicate the identity of this plant is the blue-grey basal rosette, the thick stem, overall robust appearance, large flowers and lack of basal swellings.

The final three pictures are from the Siena region of Tuscany and something of a mystery. They were growing amongst a mixed colony of O. tarquinia and O. sphegodes.