|John and Gerry's Orchids of Britain and Europe|
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O. mavrochila was first described by Hertel and Presser from Cephalonia in 2018 and its name literally means " black lipped ". This is one of the Eastern Mediterranean's rarest Ophrys with a distribution restricted (as far as is currently known) to a small area of the coastal fringes of south western Cephalonia. It occurs along sea-shore sand dunes and the sandy cliff top meadows overlooking them.
It is an Ophrys which closely resembles O. mammosa and does in fact generally grow in close association with that species. Its name can be misleading in that although some specimens will indeed be of such a deep maroon hue as to appear black, others within the same colony will be dark red and follow closely the patterns and colouration of O. mammosa. Perhaps a more reliable differentiating feature are the basal swellings which in O. mavrochila are significantly reduced as compared to O. mammosa, indeed they will often be virtually absent. The most important differentiator would however be phenology, O. mavrochila does not appear until the last flowers of O. mammosa are practically dead. The pictures here were taken in mid April and were the very first flowers to appear, the greater majority of the colony had yet to come into bloom. For this reason despite a search of the actual locus typicus we were unable to capture depictions of the darker specimens which characterize the species.
The pictures come from Kap Mounda in southern Cephalonia and date from the second and third weeks of April, at which time the species was far from in its stride. If 2023 was a guide, any visit would stand a greater chance of success at the end of April or beginning of May.