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

O. sipontensis was first described from Foggia (Italy) by Lorenz and Gembardt in 1987 and is a member of the O. incubacea group of Ophrys. Its name refers to the species particular presence around the small village of Siponto on the outskirts of Manfredonia.

This species has a range thats restricted to a small area amid the southern foothills of Mount Gargano and particularly down on the Siponto plain where it is extremely rare and usually occurs in very small numbers, often as single isolated individuals. O. sipontensis is a distinctive orchid which cannot be confused with any other Ophrys from this or indeed any other part of Italy, it is however very similar to the unrelated O. spruneri which occurs commonly across the Adriatic in Greece. Although not closely related, these two species share the same pollinator and this almost certainly accounts for the morphological resemblance.

As can be seen from the photographs, the species is somewhat variable and whilst at one end of the scale it can be highly colourful and blousy, at the opposite end it may be rather drab with little more than a pink blush to a greenish perianth. O. sipontensis is a robust orchid with up to eight large, dark almost black lipped flowers arranged alternately up the stem.

It's choice of habitat is very similar to its close relative and probable ancestor O. garganica, a full sun situation in garrigue, abandoned terraces, short grassland. It also shows a distinct preference for road verges. The photographs accompanying this text are all from plants growing in roadside positions around the mountain top town of Monte Sante'Angelo, dating from the middle of April.