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Ophrys episcopalis - the Bishop's Ophrys

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

Ophrys episcopalis

This orchid is grouped along with 16 others in the Ophrys bornmuelleri group (Delforge, 2005 edition). It can also be confused with Ophrys tenthredinifera.

The plants can be large - both tall and robust in appearance - but it is the 'square' lip of Ophrys episcopalis that is its most distinctive feature. The lip is undivided, with slightly upturned edges and two well-defined protruberances on either side of the 'shoulders'; it is also covered with hairs, giving it an overall downy appearance.

Ophrys episcopalis close up

The large, square downy lip of Ophrys episcopalis

This orchid likes alkaline soil conditions and grows on abandoned farmlan and short grassland as well as in phrygana or garrigue; it blooms from the end of February through to the beginning of May.

The plants shown on this page were photographed in Crete, where it is widespread, at the beginning of April. It is rare throughout the rest of its eastern European range.

Etymology

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 episcopalis means 'of bishops', and suggests that the flower form is reminiscent of a bishop's mitre.

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