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Ophrys cretica ssp bicornuta

O. cretica ssp bicornuta was first described from Crete by Kretzchmar and Jahn in 2001 and is a member of the exclusively eastern Mediterranean based O. reinholdii group of Ophrys.

Despite its name O. cretica is not confined to Crete being found sporadically throughout the southern Aegean, Laconia in the southern Peloponnese and very rarely in Cyprus. This sub-species is however endemic to the eastern side of Crete, where it grows, sometimes abundantly, in full sun or part shade on dry calcareous substrates often in the company of O. cretica itself. As with this latter species, bicornuta exhibits a relatively simple specular pattern, unlike their close cousin O. ariadnae. which often possesses quite extravagant markings. The key distinguishing features are however the lateral lobes, which have developed into horns and as can be seen from the pictures, can in some cases be quite formidable. The problem arises when these appendages are less significant, the general rule being that if the lobe is at all extended and at least its tip is completely hairless then it can be regarded as bicornuta.

In the field identification is complicated by both natural species variation and hybridization. Pictures 9 and 12 depict such intermediates. Picture 11 illustrates a cross involving O. cretensis. Crosses with either O. cretica or O. ariadnae are far more difficult to detect. The taxonomic status of bicornuta is not a matter of universal agreement, with some referring to it as simply a variation, whilst others accord it full species status (Devillers and Devillers-Terschuren 2009). Sub-species rank seems appropriate at present.

The photographs all come from eastern Crete, during the first two weeks of April.