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Ophrys sappho

O. sappho was first described from Lesbos by Devillers, Devillers-Turschuren and Flausch in 2010 and is a member of the O. oestrifera group of Ophrys. Its name refers to the celebrated Lesbian poet Sappho.

This handsome little Ophrys is another rarity of the Eastern Aegean islands but which had been assumed to be one of the newly described O. oestrifera group members that were proliferating in the early 21st century. A small colony was initially discovered on Lesbos but since then further sites have been identified, including on Samos, though its complete distribution is unknown. It remains however an uncommon and almost certainly overlooked orchid.

It can be a tall plant with up to ten flowers but the most obvious distinguishing characteristic is its flowering period, which commences in late April and runs through May. The plants depicted here are from Samos and date from the first of May at which time they were only just commencing their cycle and all the islands other scolopaxoid species were finished. Other features of note are the backward pointing perianth and the invariably extensive, often complicated specular pattern.  It will be seen from the illustrations of these Samos plants that the basal swellings are long, horn like and sometimes muscular, an attribute that does not seem to accord with examples of the species from Lesbos which  appear be to considerably shorter.

O. sappho is an orchid of garrigue, abandoned terraces and rocky, sometimes arid terrain on calcareous substrates where it can sometimes form substantial colonies.