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

O. provincialis
was first described from Alpes-Maritimes (France) in 1988, its  name referring to the  Provence region of France that is very much the centre of its distribution. This species is the eponymous member of the small O. provincialis group.
This is a local but not uncommon species whose range is currently understood to be the Mediterranean hinterland of southern France and perhaps into northern Italy. Its habitat requirements seem undemanding and although rarely found away from alkaline soils, it appears equally happy to grow in either full sun or surprisingly heavy shade. O. provincialis is most commonly found in dry scrub or grassland but will thrive  quite happily in wet meadows.

The origins of this species are thought to be hybridogenous and as can be seen from the illustrations, O. provincialis does show a degree of variability frequently associated with species of this lineage. When free of any genetic interference from neighbouring species (which is common), it is not easily confused with other Ophrys species. The sepal colouration is usually green though this can rarely be washed with pink and even more rarely a virtually solid pink/purple. The lip is less variable however and is generally a bright red which may rarely shade into a dark brown.The external walls of the stigmatic cavity are always a brilliant and contrasting white, the basal field usually concolourous with the lip. The speculum is bold, varying from a relatively simple H pattern to complicated shield shapes. This variation adds weight to the argument concerning its hybrid background.

The pictures come from various sites in Var and date from the second week of May.