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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. exaltata group. Its name refers to the Tarquins, Etruscan Kings of Rome between 759 and 503 BC (the first of these being Romulus).
This Ophrys is an Italian endemic with a very limited range centred on Tuscany and at its most frequent away from the coast in the Firenze region. It is however relatively common as far south as Grosetto and it's in this area that its range overlaps with several other closely related and morphologically similar species. This region of southern Tuscany supports three species that may be found in flower concurrently with O. tarquinia namely O. argentaria,  O. classica and the ubiquitous O. sphegodes. These species all have individual distinguishing features but years of gene introgression 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 but less reliably the following characteristics can also be indicative ;-  1; The 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 distinctly bluish grey and the stem tall and sturdy. 

The pictures all come from sites in southern Tuscany between Siena and Grosetto, dating from the end of March and April.    

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.