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

O. fuciflora
was first described by Schmidt from Switzerland in 1770 and its common name is the Late Spider Orchid, despite the fact that its name literally means a flower shaped like a bee. In several European countries this taxon is preferentially referred to by the synonym, Ophrys holoserica.

This species is a familiar one to those who travel to western Europe in search of orchids but it is however an Ophrys that can be extremely difficult to identify with certainty due to the large number of similar species that have been and continue to be recognized. The O. fuciflora and O. tetraloniae groups in particular contain numerous members that may easily be confused with this Ophrys and the situation is often further complicated by hybridisation and introgression which frequently create populations mimicing pure species of unrelated fuciflorids. These populations are referred to as lookalikes.

A certain way to ensure a confident identification is by seeking out the orchid in southern England where there are no similar species with which to confuse it ! O. fuciflora is however extremely rare in the UK and can be found in just a handful of sites in the south east of the country. A similar situation existed in  Holland until recently but O. fuciflora is now almost certainly extinct there.    

O. fuciflora has a distinctive and elegant appearance with a lower labellum that normally flares out like a flamenco dancers skirt, a feature which is nicely depicted in several of the photos. This species is never  three-lobed and importantly the sub marginal hairs are rarely complete, being at their heaviest around  the shoulders. The photos are from France, Gargano and Tuscany and all date from the last week of May and beginning of June.   




 The following pictures are all from Gargano and depict some interesting plants.  The first and second examples exhibit highly unusual lip markings 
 whilst the third is a hybrid and can be fairly confidently linked with O. biscutella.