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


O. eleonora was first described from Nouro, Sardinia by Devillers and Devillers-Terschuren in 1991 and belongs to the five member O. iricolor group of Ophrys. It is named after the Princess Eleanora, ruler of ancient Arborea.

O. eleonora is restricted in range to Sardinia and Corsica, together with some small populations in north Africa where it is less common. As with other members of the O. iricolor group, it is a large, dark and imposing orchid that is difficult to confuse with other Ophrys. It is most frequently encountered in Sardinia where it's much the largest of the Pseudophrys species present, all of which fall into the tiny (O. ortuabis) to mediium (O. zonata) size category.

Typically it is a tall plant up to 50cms with no more than three dark lipped flowers, held at a wide angle from the stem, often horizontally. The speculum is extensive, normally blue, marbled and often with a strong infusion of red. Of particular note are the longitudinal prominences which form unmistakable, large yellow/orange basal ridges. A yellow marginal band may be present on the upper surface of the lip but as can be seen from the final photograph, is invariably present on the underside and this characteristic pattern together with the reddish colouration are important aids to identification.

Variation does occur within this species, primarily involving lip and speculum pattern; inevitably hybridization also creates some confusing offspring but overall this is one of the easier Pseudophrys to identify. The photographs all come from Sardinia and date from second week of April, at which time plants at lower elevations were past their best and those in the mountains just commencing their flowering cycle.