John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Ophrys olympiotissa

O. olympiotissa was first described from Elassona (Greece) by Paulus in 2011 and is a member of the O. argolica group of Ophrys. Its name derives from Panagia Olympiotissa, a monastery near Elassona and close to the site of this species discovery.

This new species is best described as a cross between O. ferrum-equinum and O. argolica and it may well be that these two species are its hybidogenous ancestors. It is hugely variable, appearing in forms that closely resemble either of these species and the situation can be further confused by back hybridisation with O. ferrum-equinum, a species which it frequently grows alongside. O. olympiotissa is only found in a small area to the south of Mount Olympus and well over 100 kms north of the nearest population of O. argolica.

This is an extremely rare orchid growing on rocky calcareous hillsides and whose known population numbers just a few hundred, shared between two main colonies. The plant is somewhat spindly and carries a stem of two to six flowers, each of which are often remarkably varied, particularly in respect of specular pattern. The lip colouration is generally an O. ferrum-equinum like dark brown, with shoulders of thick, off white or brown hair, although the extent and sometimes the density of this hair is variable. The speculum is equally variable and ranges from a pair of O. argolica like eyes to a horseshoe and sometimes a complete bib.

O. olympiotissa is a relatively late flowerer which first appears in late April and can still be around in early June. These illustrations date from early May.