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Ophrys crabronifera

This endemic Italian species was first described from Rome in 1820 by Mauri and its name literally translates to "bearing hornets". This is a reference to the lips resemblance to that insect but it's a similarity that is somewhat lost on the authors ?

O. crabronifera is a variable plant both in shape and colouration but is nonetheless distinctive enough to be readily distinguished from most other Ophrys species that may be encountered growing in its vicinity. There is however a small overlap of distribution with a morphologically similar relative in the very south of its range, namely O. pollinensis. This latter species is a fellow member of the thirteen strong O. argolica group and being of hybridogenous origin with O. crabronifera and O. fuciflora as progenitors, individual plants can often exhibit characteristics and be strongly reminiscent of either of its parents.

Typically O. crabronifera is a tall, spindly plant bearing a lax inflorescence of up to twelve reddish, brown lipped flowers, with a reduced speculum normally consisting of two unconnected or bridged blue diamond shaped markings. The perianth is normally pink, less often white but can also be green as with the similar O. igilia from the Tuscan archipelago. The range of O. crabronifera is not a matter of complete agreement with Delforge stating it extends from Livorno south to Rome, whereas others maintain it reaches, but is then replaced by O. pollinensis south of Naples. There is no doubt however that O. crabronifera is at its most numerous in the western Provinces of Tuscany and Lazio.

The pictures are from the Monte Argentario and Grosetto regions of south western Tuscany, dating from the last week of March. Photos 7,8 and 10 depict plants with atypical markings that may be hybrids.