Ophrys bertolonii - Bertoloni's Bee Orchid

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae

Bertoloni's Bee Orchid

This orchid can be found throughout much of Italy as well as in Spain and eastwards towards former Yugoslavia.


Ophrys bertolonii grows to a maximum of 45cm and carries 3-8 large flowers on each infloresence. It is the dark, almost black, velvety lip with its shiny speculum that makes the flower so attractive. The sepals and petals are a lovely shade of pale pink, sometimes tinged or marked with green - see below.

Closeup picture of Bertolonii's Bee Orchid

This orchid grows side-by-side with Ophrys Bertoloniiformis which is very similar except that the sepals and petals of O.bertoloniiformis are entirely greenish-brown in colour.

This orchid grows in grassy and stony places and sometimes can be found in open woodland. It seldom grows to more than 45cm in height and carries between 3 and 8 flowers on each spike.

Ophrys bertolonii, Gargano Peninsula, Italy


This orchid is widespread throughout much of the central Mediterranean region and it spreads as far south as Greece. It is particularly common on the Gargano Peninsula in Italy. In France a rare but very similar plant occurs, Ophrys bertolonii subsp. aurelia, and there is another similar-looking orchid recorded from northern Italy - Ophrys bertolonii subsp. benacensis.


Ophrys bertolonii grows in full sun on dry-to-damp unimproved chalk grassland.

Flowering times

From late March to May.

Ophrys bertolonii with a white speculum

An unusal form of Ophrys bertolonii with a white speculum

The specimens on this page were photographed close to Monte Sant'Angelo in the Gargano Peninsula in Italy in mid April.


The genus name Ophrys comes from Greek and means 'eyebrow' - a reference to the hairy fringe of the lip of the flower of many orchids in this genus. The specific epithet bertolonii honours Italian botanist Antonio Bertoloni (1775 - 1869).

Reference sources

The Plant List

Henrik AErenlund Pedersen & Niels Faurholdt (2007) Ophrys - The Bee Orchids of Europe; Kew

Pierre Delforge (2005) Orchids of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; A&C Black

Les Orchidees de France, Belgique et Luxemborg; Parthenope Collection

Angela Rossini and Giovanni Quiadamo (2003) Orchidee Spontanee nel Parco Nazionale del Gargano; Centrografico Francescano

Claudio Del Fuoco (2003) Orchidee del Gargano

Sue Parker's latest ebook is a revised and enlarged edition of Wild Orchids in The Burren. Full details here...

Buy it for just £5.95 on Amazon...

Sue Parker's new ebook is a comprehensive and fully revised edition of her acclaimed field guide to the Wild Orchids of Wales. Full details here...

Buy it for just £5.95 on Amazon...

Wild Orchids of the Algarve, how, when and where to find them

Sue Parker's 5-star acclaimed field guide to the Wild Orchids of the Algarve is now available as an ebook. Full details here...

Buy it for just £5.95 on Amazon...

Please Help Us: If you have found this information interesting and useful, please consider helping to keep First Nature online by making a small donation towards the web hosting and internet costs.

Any donations over and above the essential running costs will help support the conservation work of Plantlife, the Rivers Trust and charitable botanic gardens - as do author royalties and publisher proceeds from books by Pat and Sue.

© 1995 - 2024 First Nature: a not-for-profit volunteer-run resource

Please help to keep this free resource online...

Terms of use - Privacy policy - Disable cookies - Links policy