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Ophrys cretensis

O. cretensis was first described as a subspecies of O. sphegodes by Baumann and Kunkele from Crete in 1986. It has subsequently been placed in the O. mammosa group though this repositioning is not universally accepted.

This is not an uncommon orchid and despite its name, is not endemic to Crete, being found on several other southern Aegean islands. It is an early flowerer, being found from mid February onwards and can be finished by mid April. O. cretensis is an unremarkable orchid of small stature and spindly growth, it is also of variable appearance, due in no small part to frequent hybridization with another Cretan Ophrys, O. knossia. This latter species is newly named after previously being regarded variously as the Cretan representatives of both O. herae and O. grammica. These intermediates create considerable difficulties with identification and several of the pictures that accompany this text show evidence of genetic interference, notably those of a more flamboyant appearance. 

A key distinguishing factor is the colour of the stigmatic cavity and basal field which in O. cretensis should match that of the lip as a whole, in O. knossia it is lighter, often with an olive hue. Basal swellings may be present or absent, the lip only weakly attenuated and  sepals usually plain green but sometimes whitish. The final picture depicts an uncommon form of the species known as planimaculata.

The photos are all from Crete, dating from the first week of April.