Ophrys kotschyi subsp. cretica - Cretan Bee Orchid

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

A close-up picture of Ophrys cretica

Both Ophrys cretica and the very similar looking Ophrys ariadne occur on Crete and some of the other islands close by causing confusion with accurate identification. The pattern on the lip, which is more complex on Ophrys ariadne, is the main distinguishing feature.

Cretan Ophrys

Picture by kind permission of Anne Horsfall


This is a very distinctive looking orchid which grows to 40cm.The inflorescence carries up to 10 vivid flowers distinguished by the speculum which is broadly outlined with white against a dark, velvety-looking lip. The petals and sepals are a drab green colour tinged with brownish red.


Locally abundant in the Southern Aegean islands.


Ophrys cretica grows in sunny or partially shaded habitats and is found on abandoned farmland, poor grassland and in scrub.

Flowering times

This orchid flowers from mid-March to the end of April..

The specimens shown on this page were photographed in Crete.


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 cretica refers to the island of Crete where this orchid was first recorded.

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

Fielding, Turland and Mathew (2005) Flowers of Crete; Kew

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