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

Ophrys melena

This is one of the four members of the O. lutea group and is unlikely to be confused with its fellow group members by virtue of its very dusky overall appearance, indeed its name "melena" means dark.  It was first described from Mount Hymettus in 1928 and this area of Attica still forms the hub of its limited range.

O. melena is endemic to Greece and as already metioned it is at its most frequent in the south of the country, the Aegean and in the Peloponnese. It has also been recorded from Crete and its possible presence in the Gargano peninsula is being studied. This latter location would seem most unlikely and may well refer to either a new taxon or one of the Sicillian specialities such as O. numida. This is a rare orchid which unlike O. sicula, O. lutea  and O. phyrganae , does not tend to occur in great numbers, even where conditions are ideal. O. melena can usually be distinguished from its cousins by the extent of the brown hair which completely covers the labellum. These dark areas normally shade through deep orange  to brown and thence to a distinct yellow margin. Although it can be easily separated from its fellow group members, there are other species such as O. lindia and O. perpusilla which can cause confusion.

O. melena has been recognized for many years and its status has been a point of contention throughout that period ! Some believe it to be merely a swarthy O. sicula and others a hybrid between that species and fusca sl. The latter argument would help to explain the high variability of this species.

The illustrations are from Chios and Mt Hymettus, dating from the first week of April.