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Ophrys mavromata

O. mavromata was first described by Alibertis and Triantafyllaki from Cephalonia as recently as 2015, though quite how such a distinctive orchid remained undiscovered for so long is something of a mystery. Its name is an obvious reference to the darkness of the labellum, which although in actuality, dark red, appears at first sight to be black (mavro in Greek). This is one of the eastern Mediterranean's rarest Ophrys, occurring only in a small area of north east Cephalonia where its total known population numbers around 100 plants split between four or five colonies. 

O. mavromata is very much a roadside orchid, where it thrives in conditions ranging from shallow, stony drainage ditches to sometimes verdant flower filled verges. Its presence in this latter environment is somewhat difficult to understand given that Ophrys will not normally tolerate competition from rank vegetation. Its sites are all along mountain roads at approx 1000 metres where it prefers alkaline soil and a position in full sun. In lip shape and pattern this species can show some variance but colouration of both labellum and the typical mammosa group bicoloured sepals are not subject to any great variation. Picture 10 depicts an example with sepal colouration suggesting a cross pollination event with another species, possibly O. gottfriediana. It should be noted however that within the three sites visited, only one species was found sharing the immediate habitat and this was a single plant of O. reinholdii.

This is a robust, large flowered and extremely handsome orchid which to date has been found only once in very small numbers outside of its core range around the small town of Komitata. The pictures date from the second week of April.