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

O. cressa
was first described by Paulus from Lassithi, Crete in 1998 and is a member of the O. fusca group of Ophrys. Until the turn of the century this species was considered to be present on several Aegean islands and particularly widespread across Crete. In 2007 however, Paulus produced a paper which significantly re-arranged the O. fusca group of Cretan late flowering Pseudophrys and which described three new species, O. kedra, O. pallidula and O. phaidra. It further revised the status of O. cressa from being a not uncommon Ophrys, to a rarity confined to eastern Crete with its headquarters in the Thripti massif.

O. cressa is the smallest of the Cretan Pseudophrys, with the exception of the similarly proportioned O. cinereophila and its this characteristic that provides the best indication of its identity. Another endemic, O. phaidra, is however only slightly larger and otherwise very similar. Naturally occurring variation in the two species can often lead to difficulties in separating them and even local experts will concede it to be a problem. O. cressa is decidedly variable but typically dark brown with a small speculum and a broad yellow margin, the stigmatic opening is wide and a distinct central groove separates the flattish lip. It is a late flowerer, first appearing in mid April, a week or two later than O. phaidra.

The plant itself normally produces 2 or 3 flowers, rarely more than 5 and these appear alternately towards the top of a short, slender stem. O. phaidra can support up to 8 flowers on a longer stalk. The pictures date from the second week of April.