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

This is a relatively common member of the large O. oestrifera group which until 2004 was known as O. bremifera. The name "Ceto" comes from the Greek "Keto", meaning sea monster and from which was named the sea Goddess Ceto who was most famous for bearing a family of little sea monsters called the Phorcydes. We are unaware of quite what it was about the Ophrys that brought this particular God to mind ?

Although (as with most of the Greek, O. oestrifera group) this species is frequently the subject of genetic  interference, in its pure form it can be a straightforward orchid to identify and there are three key features which assist identification :- 1. it's a robust Ophrys, the plant itself despite being slender, is sturdy and the flowers large with a long lip. 2. it is one of the few members of the group that does not possess very long lateral lobes (horns) 3. the stigmatic cavity is wide, being at least 50% of the lip width. A final feature though less diagnostic is the pseudo-eyes (and ridge between them) that are very pronounced.

Its range is from the Aegean basin and through central Greece to the Ionian islands. There are however   some question marks with regard to its status in the Aegean islands where particularly on Chios, plants   previously thought to be this species are being newly reclassified as O. masticorum  and  O. orphanidae.

All the illustrations here are from Mt Hymettus near Athens and the northern Peloponnese where it is can be reasonably plentiful. Where it comes into contact with other members of the oestrifera group it can form hybrid swarms of very confusing intermediates. Perhaps this is why the species was named after a Goddess who spawned monsters ?