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

O. fusca was first described from Lisbon, Portugal in 1800 (Link) and its name refers to the darkness of the labellum. This characteristic led to the orchid acquiring the common name Dull or Sombre Ophrys.

This species, or perhaps more correctly the name, O. fusca, was the original plant from which, over the years, numerous subspecies have been identified and more recently, many new species described. The term O. fusca (sl) is still in common use as an inclusive grouping that describes unidentified Pseudophrys of a similar appearance. It was first thought that O. fusca occurred throughout the Mediterranean but current understanding believes it to be restricted to the western countries of the region, particularly North Africa, Southern France, Spain and Portugal.

This is a species that can be abundant and no more so than in Portugal, where it grows in a locally distinct form that may soon be accorded separate species status (see pictures 1,9 and 10 which are examples from Lisbon). It is not particularly choosy in its choice of habitat but shows a preference for Alkaline substrates where it grows as a relatively tall plant with up to ten large flowers. Where it grows with other Pseudophrys such as O. arnoldii and O. forestieri it readily hybridizes, creating the inevitable hybrid swarms.

In its genetically pure form it is most easily distinguished by its dark, blackish/purple colouration and the large, raised longitudinal prominences which usually produce a significant curve in the lip. The speculum is normally quite dull, being dark blue/grey and sometimes with a mottled appearane. The central Portuguese populations, as mentioned above, are however rather more colourful,  with a lighter speculum which often includes two lighter crescents at the tip and a more noticeable yellow margin (see pictures 8-10).