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

O. vernixia  was first described from Coimbra, Portugal by Brotero in 1804 and is a member of the small
O. speculum group of Ophrys. Some authorities don't accept this plant as a full species and prefer to accord it only sub specific status as O. speculum ssp lusitanica. This group of orchids are well known by their widely used common name of Mirror Ophrys.

O. vernixia is confined to localized populations in the southern half of Portugal,  together with some similarly scattered outposts in Southern Spain.  In Spain its range is centred on Andalucia but it can also be found in just one or two sites as far north as the Province of Jaen. It is rare throughout its range but in some of its  colonies, it can number hundreds of individual plants.

This species frequently grows alongside O. speculum  and the two readily hybridize and consequentially form large intermediate populations that can present real problems with identification. In pure populations however, differentiation is quite straightforward and perhaps the most striking contrast between the two is their differing proportions. O. speculum is spindly and rarely grows above 20cms whereas O. vernixia is robust and capable of reaching 50cms or more. The flowers themselves also differ in size but in the latter species, the median lobe (lip) and lateral lobes (arms) are significantly longer than those of the more "dumpy" O. speculum.

Although there is a flowering overlap between the two species, O. vernixia does not normally appear until at least mid April,  some two or three weeks after O. speculum. The pictures come from Malaga Province, Spain and the Algarve of Portugal, dating from the end of April.