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

O. ariadnae was first described from Crete by Paulus in 1994 and is a member of the O. reinholdii group of Ophrys. It was named after Ariadne, who in Greek mythology was one of twelve children fathered by King Minos.

This species is a Greek endemic being found in the Cyclades, Karpathos and in Crete where it is not uncommon on the eastern side of the island. It has also been recently discovered in small numbers on the mainland in both Attica and the south Peloponnese. It is a very similar plant to O. cretica and on Crete itself, the two species frequently hybridize, producing populations of intermediates whose true identity can be very difficult to establish with certainty.

Even without genetic interference, natural variation ensures distinguishing between O. ariadnae and O. cretica is not always straightforward. In typical forms however, two features in particular serve to separate the taxons. The first of these is the stigmatic cavity which in O. cretica is constricted at the base and creates a "neck" like form, whereas in O. ariadnae, it widens or as a minimum rises straight up from the shoulders (see pictures 4 and 13). A second characteristic is the tendency of the latter species to exhibit a significantly more complex and extensive specular pattern. Commencement of flowering does vary a little with O. ariadnae sometimes appearing up to a month before its close relative. They both however bloom for lengthy periods and can easily be found flowering concurrently, often side by side. O. ariadnae starts flowering as early as February and is normally over by the end of April.

The pictures are all from Crete and date from the first two weeks of April.