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

This is one of the eastern Mediterranean's rarer Ophrys occurring only in the eastern Aegean basin, Anatolia and Crete. It's a member of the O. omegaifera roup and takes its name from Sitia, this being the district of Crete from where it was first described in 1988.

O. sitiaca is generally thought to be of hybrid origin with O. omegaifera and one of the O.fusca group as the genetic contributers. This hybrid background almost certainly accounts for its variability consequent difficulties with identification. Crete is very much viewed as the home of this Ophrys and other populations outside of the island are now being carefully studied. In Lesbos and Chios, the later flowering plants once assumed to be O. sitiaca have now been split off and reclassified as either O. pelinea or O. polycratis. It is highly probable that further taxonomic revision will occur over the coming years.

Attempting to offer advice on identification of this species is difficult to say the least and perhaps the only truly consistent characteristic amongst the many descriptions we have studied, is flowering time which is generally but not unanimously held to be very early (January to March). In theory O. sitiaca should be finished on Lesbos before O. pelinea starts and on Crete O. omegaifera will still be some three weeks away from flowering by the time O. sitiaca is dead and gone. Delforge himself concedes that O. sitiaca is a difficult and variable taxon that can exhibit strong characteristics of both its O. fusca and O. omegaifera lineage. Photos are from Crete, Lesbos and Chios and date from the last two weeks of March (rather late for this species ?).