John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Ophrys apifera x insectifera


Ths hybrid has been known since 1962 when the pollinia of O. insectifera was artificially introduced to O. apifera in the Halle district of the then East Germany. The first plants appeared in 1967 and were named O x pietzschii in recognition of the botanist who first undertook the pollination experiment. These plants did not however flourish and had disappeared by 1975.

In 1968, while the above events were happening in East Germany, similar plants were discovered at a woodland site in the Avon Gorge, Bristol, initially being considered aberrant forms of O. insectifera. It was not until 1976 that they were recognized as O. x pietzschii and as such were the first wholly natural offspring of a hybridization between O. apifera and O. insectifera. These plants survived for just over 15 years but in 1993 they followed their artificially created cousins into extinction.

The plant was however rediscovered in 2003 when three specimens were found growing at a most unlikely site on an embankment alongside the A303 in Somerset. This colony is currently thriving and in 2014 numbered nearly 40 individual plants, it seems that hybridisation is ongoing and interestingly only very small numbers of the parent species are ever present within the population. O x pietzschii is only known to be extant at one other site in southern England and this orchid is therefore considered to be an extreme rarity. Despite being a hybrid it is not particularly variable, the lip being a uniform brown with sepals which are basically dull green, though often washed pink, sometimes heavily so. It can be a tall, robust plant with a dozen flowers which appear from mid May to early June.