|John and Gerry's Orchids of Britain and Europe|
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O. cretensis was first described as a subspecies of O. sphegodes by Baumann and
Kunkele from Crete in 1986.
This is an uncommon orchid which despite its name, is not endemic to the island of
Crete, being found on several other southern Aegean islands. It is a very early flowerer and can be seen from mid February onwards and be finished by the start
of April when many other Ophrys are just beginning.
O. cretensis is an unremarkable orchid of small stature and a spindly appearance
that makes it easily overlooked. The dorsal sepal is generally bent forward and the
sepal colouration is invariably green although a light pinkish wash is sometimes present in the lower half. The petals are long, thin and can often be slightly darker.
The flowers can number from 2 to 6 and are very similar to those of O. gortynia
which grows in very similar habitat IE :- garrigue, old terraces and dry grassland.
The most important distinguishing factor is however flowering time and as was stated
earlier, this species is likely to be well past its best before O. gortynia starts. The
picture comes from Crete in March and at a time when a storm had just deposited a
liberal dusting of Saharan sand on the entire south of the island.