John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
Home Back to Ophrys species Links

Ophrys helios

helios was first described from the Greek island of Karpathos by Kreutz in 2001 and is a member of the widespread and largely Eastern Mediterranean O. bornmuelleri group of Ophrys.

Up until the turn of the 20th century most authorities believed that the O. bornmuelleri group on Crete was  only represented by O. episcopalis and that there were separate populations of an earlier flowering Ophrys  which had become known as O. maxima (recently reclassified as O. colossaea on Rhodes). Both these species  were thought to occur elsewhere in the Aegean and particularly Rhodes but research by Paulus and Hirth in 2009 confirmed that in fact the two species share the same pollinator and are in fact a single taxon. Nonetheless a further member of the group is now known to exist on the island and this is the recently described O. helios.  

On Crete, O. helios is one of three principal fuciflorid species, the other two being O. candica and O. episcopalis where it is the latter that creates most confusion as they are very similar orchids and frequently grow side by side in loose colonies. The former species is however a later flowerer, although, as mentioned, they may both be found in bloom concurrently, particularly during April. O. helios is also a smaller flower, appearing rather broader at the shoulders and with more widely separated basal swellings. Both of these species are variable, appearing in scolopaxoid form as well as trapezoid but in the case of O. helios, more usually quadrangular.

The photographs accompanying this description are from Crete and date from the middle of April.