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

O. heldreichii was first described from Chania (Crete) by Schlecter in 1923 and is the title member of the largely Eastern Mediterranean, O. heldreichii group of Ophrys. It was named after T. von Heidreich,  a director of the Athens Botanical Garden in the 19th century.

This species has been central to studies carried out by various botanists but particularly based on work in the early part of this century by Devillers and Devillers-Turschuren. Space doesn't allow even a precise of the sequence of discoveries but one of the resultant conclusions was the extraction of O. heldreichii from the O. scolopax family and its subsequent elevation to title species of a growing new group that currently numbers fifteen members, many of which are newly described species.

O. heldreichii is now considered to be endemic to Crete where it grows quite abundantly in varying types of alkaline habitat from dry to moist but generally in full sun positions. It is a large flowered, brightly coloured species that is not easily overlooked and is morphologically very similar to the slightly smaller O. calypsus v calypsus. Perhaps its most distinctive feature is the waistline of the lip which is invariably globular and in some examples can only be described as rotund. The lateral lobes are variable but usually of medium length being thin, pointed and splayed outwards. Sepals and petals are contiguous at the base, concolorous and normally deep pink or purple.

It is widespread across the island and flowers from March through to May, the pictures here dating from the first two weeks of April.