John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Orchis provincialis
 

This is a member of the 23 strong O. mascula group and was first described from Var, southern France in 1806 by Giovvani-Batista Balbis, an Italian politician and botanist. Its name refers to the area of France from where it was discovered.  

O. provincialis is a widespread and locally common member of the Orchis genus with a distribution that encompasses most of central and southern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Aegean through Turkey and beyond as far as Russia. It can grow in extensive though usually loose colonies but is rarely abundant. As with many of its fellow O. mascula group members and not least O. mascula itself, this species shows a distinct preference for high ground, neutral soils and light woodland. There are  several other species with which it can be initially mistaken, perhaps the two most common of these being O. pauciflora and D. romana, both of which share considerable overlaps in range. Close inspection will however easily distinguish them, the most significant single differentiator being the boldly spotted leaves of O. provincialis, a feature completely absent from the other two species. It lacks the bracts present in D. romana and is a very much paler yellow than O. pauciflora. It can be extremely pallid and appear virtually white, sometimes lacking the red spots which normally characterize the the lip. It can be seen, particularly from photograph four, how older flowers lose the depth of yellow colouration and become much whiter.

O. provincialis can commence flowering as early as mid March in Algeria and southern Greece but as late as June in Germany, Switzerland and Russia. The photos come from the Cilento National Park (Italy), Lesbos, Sardinia and Sicily and all date from various stages through the month of April,  with the Italian examples being the latest (20/4/2007).