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

O. praemelena
was first described from the Epiros region of north western Greece by Hertel and Presser in 2010 and is a member of the O. lutea group of Ophrys.

The distribution of this species has not yet been fully established but is currently known from several of the Ionian islands including Corfu and Kephalonia, Attica, the northern Peloponnese and most importantly the Epiros region around Igoumenitsa. It seems likely that this species will be found to be far more widespread and probably beyond the borders of Greece.

As its name suggests, O. praemelena is strongly reminiscent of O. melena but differs in the extent and  and shade of the dark lip colouration. With O. melena the lip is almost always completely brown with a thin yellow margin whereas in O. praemelena, the darker area is less complete and often of a much redder hue. The latter species has a fuller lip with little sinus separation and can easily be mistaken for a heavily marked O. sicula, this being precisely what some experts believe it is anyway. The lateral lobes recurve strongly backwards but then reflex forward at the margins.

O. praemelena, like O. sicula is an early flowerer, appearing at lower altitudes in February and as late as early May in cooler conditions. Where it grows alongside O. melena it is said to appear up to two months earlier, Attica being one of the regions where this difference has been reported.

The photos are from Attica, Mt Hymettus and Epiros, dating from the beginning of April.