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

O. villosa is an eastern Mediterranean representative of the O. tenthredenifera group and takes it name from the word villous, meaning hairy. Recent studies and perhaps most importantly, work carried out in Crete by Delforge (2005) has now determined that, as had been suspected for some time, O. villosa is not a single species but a polytipic taxon which has now been split to include four new species. (O. dictynnae, O. ulyssea, O. korae and O. leochroma).

Of the five species, O. villosa is the latest to bloom in mid March and has much the shortest season, being largely finished by early April. A description of its flower conforms very closely to that of the western Mediterranean,
O. tenthredenifera
and given that the two species share the same species of pollinating bee, it seems highly likely that the name O. villosa will ultimately become simply a synonym of O. tenthredenifera.

As a result of the reclassifications, O. leochroma is by far the most widely distributed of the group with O. ulyssea found only on the Ionian Islands, O. dictynnae on Crete, O. korae on Rhodes and Samos with O. villosa restricted to Crete, the larger Aegean islands and western Anatolia. The biggest overlap in range is therefore between O. villosa and O. leochroma, though differentiating the two in the field is reasonably straightforward by virtue of the significantly larger flower size of O. leochroma. Separating the two by photographic means can be more problematic, as although there are some formally described morphological differences, these characteristics do not seem to be unique and can be inconclusive in many cases.

O. villosa is a hirsute flower with a complete "wreath" of often course white hair around the lip margin. This includes above the appendage but this should not be confused with the loose tuft of long hair that can be present in O. leochroma. The latter species is also said to carry a darker lip but the authors cannot find any particular evidence for this as although O. villosa may be generally paler, both species appear to produce darker morphs.   





The following pictures feature plants which are clearly aberrent, though whether this is has been caused by genetic or external influences is not known.