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Ophrys creticola

O. creticola was first described by Paulus from Iraklion, Crete in 1998 and is a rare member of the O. fusca group of Ophrys. It is also known, particularly within Greek botany, by the synonym Ophrys protofusca.

It is one of the earliest of the Cretan Pseudophrys to appear and can be found in flower as early as January. It can also claim however to have one of the longest flowering periods and it's quite possible to find this orchid still in good condition during early April. O. creticola is a large flowered species endemic to Crete and which could only be really confused with O. kedra, an orchid which in Crete is confined to the Spili plateau and which only starts blooming after O. creticola has completely faded. The later flowering O. cressa is morphologically similar but significantly smaller.

It is an uncommon orchid which has an extremely local distribution, being at its most prevalent in central Crete, notably in the vicinity of Archanes to the south of Heraklion. It can however be frequent on rocky calcareous hillsides, usually in full sun, up to an altitude of 750 metres. The lip is dark brown, almost invariably yellow edged, sometimes broadly, with a speculum usually a dull blue or mauve that does not extend to the sinuses. The plant is robust, growing to some 25cms and may produce up to six individual flowers.

The pictures are from central Crete and date from the first week of April.