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

O. gortynia was first described as O. sphegodes ssp gortynia by Baumann and Kunkele but was subsequently preferred full species status by Paulus in 1986. It is a member of the widespread and growing O. mammosa  group of Ophrys and its name refers to the ancient archaeological site of Gortyn some 45 kilometres south of the capital Heraklion.

This is a species whose known range is now expanding well beyond its original restricted home in Crete, though this island is still at the centre of its distribution and where it is at its most frequent. It is now known to occur in the Aegean basin, the Cyclades, Anatolia and has most recently been discovered growing in Cyprus. Given the trend for Cypriot species to be split away from their cousins in the Aegean and elsewhere (see O. astarte and O. aphrodite) this population may well be reclassified in the future.

It is a distinctive Ophrys, very slender and with small flowers, usually few in number and which appear at the beginning of April, at a time in Crete when many other species are beginning to go over. The margins of the lip are hairy, being thickest at the shoulders and rather attenuated towards the distal half. Other distinguishing features include the white external walls of the stigmatic cavity, which often push forward towards the pseudo-eyes, thus forming a bridle, and finally, a characteristic, sometimes broad yellow margin around the distal half of the lip.

The pictures come from the Sitia region of eastern Crete and date from the last week of April.