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

Ophrys blitopertha

This Ophrys is the title species of a group that contains just three members, O. blitopertha, its very similar relative O. persephonae and the newly recognized O. urteae from Turkey. It was first described from the Cyclades by Paulus in 1998 and its name refers to the scarab beetle which serves as its pollinator, Blitopertha lineolata. Interestingly this is one of the very few Ophrys species that does not have a bee as its pollinator.

O. blitopertha and O. persephonae are very alike and both find a home in the eastern Aegean, although the  former is more widespread with a range that takes it from the Cyclades, through the Aegean basin into  Anatolia. There is a significant overlap of range with its fellow group member and given the similarity of the  two species, there is considerable scope for confusion.

Differentiation can be difficult and the first distinguishing feature to look for is not the flower itself but  the overall plant and its habitat. O. blitopertha is slender (often weedy) with few flowers and will be  growing in full sun. Picture 6 is hardly a classic photograph but depicts very well the typical situation in which the species is to be found. O. persephonae on the other hand will rarely (if ever) tolerate such an open, arid position and usually occurs in open pinewoods or on shady verges. It is also a more robust orchid of 30-40cm with up to 10 individual flowers.

As can be seen from the illustrations O. blitopertha can be variable and on the island of Chios in particular  there is a variation with a vivid orange lip margin (see photo's 7, 10 and 11). The photographs are from Chios and Lesbos, dating from the middle of April.