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

O. epirotica was first described from Epirus (Greece) by Renz in 1928 and is a member of the large and increasingly confusing O. mammosa group of Ophrys.

The Ophrys of north western Greece have been the subject of considerable study in recent years but despite some undoubted progress, there remain substantial question marks over the true identity and taxonomy of some species. O. epirotica is no exception and anyone reviewing the numerous species descriptions and photographic records will be struck by the variability and breadth of characteristics encompassed by this orchid.

The authors believe that at some stage soon this species will be rationalized (split) but in the meantime the description we offer is based on generally agreed and accepted data, excluding the extremes of variation. O. epirotica shares characteristics with several other species and regular hybridization complicates the situation still further, there are however a few features which can be strong indicators of species. Perhaps the most significant of these is its late flowering period which even at low altitudes, rarely commences before the beginning of May. The lip can be obscurely three lobed but is usually entire and heart shaped with a simple specular pattern consisting of two metallic blue vertical stripes that can sometimes be centrally linked into an H formation.

The very similar and to some controversial species O. macedonica is an equally late flowerer and is frequently (and somewhat suspiciously) found growing amongst populations of O. epirotica. The chief distinguishing feature is the longer lip of the former. The pictures are all from the Negades area of northern Greece.