John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
Home Back to Ophrys species Links

Ophrys bicornis

The exact status of this Ophrys is the subject of much debate, within Greece it's regarded as a full species whereas outside of that country and in many reference books it is accorded only varietal status. Delforge  describes it as the latter whilst acknowledging the possibility of its potential for promotion.

O. bicornis is a member of the large and often difficult to differentiate O. oestrifera group and has a range which takes it from the northern Balkans down to Attica and to the more northerly Aegean islands. Its distribution overlaps with that of several other similar group members and natural variation together with frequent hybridisation makes identification a far from straightforward process. Mt Hymettus on the outskirts of Athens is an example of an orchid rich area where there has been widespread gene ingression from closely related species with the resultant formation of inseparable intermediate swarms. 

In genetically pure populations the key identification characteristic is the stigmatic cavity which at its widest is usually some 60% of the width of the body when viewed face on and is generally constricted at the base with a pronounced ledge running horizontally between the two noticeable black pseudo-eyes. As can be seen from the photos, sepal colouration and speculum pattern are highly variable, although the lateral lobe length can also vary, they tend to be somewhat shorter than either O. sepoides or O. cerastes with which it often associates

The photographs are from Mount Hymettus and various locations in northern Greece, dating from mid May.