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

O. aveyronensis was first described from Aveyron (France) in 1983 and it takes its name from that small  area of southern France which is its stronghold. It's a member of the O. incubacea  group whose origins are  somewhat obscure, though thought by many as being of hybrid origin and probably polyphyletic. 

This very rare orchid is endemic to the southern slopes of the Massif Central and even in its very localised  centres of population, only occurs in small numbers. Populations of similar plants have been recognized from  northern Spain and although in 2007 these were named by Kreutz as O. vitorica, there is considerable  debate as to whether they are really a separate species.

A characteristic that is shared by both the Spanish and French populations is huge variability and a known readiness to hybridize with nearby Ophrys. O. aveyronensis often grows in association with several other   species and notably O. passionisO. virescens and O. sphegodes, careful study of the accompanying photos can reveal several characteristics reminiscent of these species.

This is an orchid with a fairly wide tolerance of habitats that will grow on either calcareous or neutral soils  and in either full sun or partial shade. It shows a particular preference for grassy environments such as hay meadows and verges. O. aveyronensis is not a shrinking violet and can be a relatively robust plant with large and showy flowers that feature a complex and often confused specular pattern.

The pictures here come from the Lapanouse-de-Cernon area and date from the third week of May at which time they were only just starting to bloom.