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

Ophrys cytherea was first described as a subspecies from the southern Greek island of Kythira by Baumann and Baumann in 2005 and was subsequently promoted to full species status by Delforge.

O. cytherea is something of a curiosity among the Greek fuciflorids in that it can often present as a  typical, unremarkable member of the O. bornmuelleri group, with a close similarity to O. graeca or O. lacaena. Equally however, it can be of truly distinctive appearance, resembling a super candicoid version of O. candica. The pictures that accompany this text feature two flowers from a single plant and illustrate very well how variable the species may be. The speculum pattern which can in extreme examples and as seen here, incorporate the entire stigmatic cavity and basal area and be completely occupied by a creamy veneer that is uncannily reminiscent of white chocolate.

Not all plants are so distinctive and it's therefore necessary to consider the more routine phenology and morphology of the species which aid its identification. O. cytherea flowers early and is one of the smaller members of the O. bornmuelleri  group, features which in the Peloponnese can see it growing in similar habitat, alongside O. lacaena which is identically proportioned and shares a similar flowering schedule. On the island of Kythira the opportunity for species confusion is more limited and the taxon, once found can be confidently identified.

From the above it will be clear that the species distribution is very narrow, comprising the island of Kythira and a very limited presence around Gytheio in the far south of the Peloponnese. The pictures are from Gytheio and date from the second week of April.