John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Ophrys lupercalis
O. lupercalis was first described by Devillers and Devillers-Terschuren from Aude (France) in 1994 and takes its name from the Ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia which was historically always celebrated on the 15th of February every year.

This name clearly alludes to the early flowering of the species and for many this characteristic is one of its key identification features.  O. lupercalis was up until recently thought to have a wide range through the Mediterranean but recent research has now concluded that it had been misidentified in Southern France and Spain and that the orchid thought to be O. lupercalis should more correctly be regarded as  O. forestieri. Given that the type was established in Aude, it's presently unclear how this re-think leaves the species authenticity in the more easterly parts of its range. For the time being however we will assume it is still a valid species in Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and Italy.

In Sicily, O. lupercalis can appear very much like the endemic O. sabulosa  but although the two species can be found in similar habitats, the former orchid would be in poor condition by the time the latter comes into flower. There is a view amongst local botanists that O. lupercalis, O. sabulosa and O. gackiae are in fact seasonal morphs of the same species ? This may yet prove to be the case.

O. lupercalis is a tall plant with up to 10 flowers that have sizeable longtitudinal prominences, though these do not produce either a kink in the upper lip or a deep, central  groove. The upper lip does in fact appear to be quite flat when seen in profile and it is only the distal area of the lip that curves under.

The pictures are from Sicily and date from late March.