Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae
The name 'iricolor' refers to the distinctive, iridescent mirror (speculum) on the upper surface of the lip of this orchid. The other more compelling feature which helps to identify this species is the red under surface of the lip. The plant grows to a maximum of 35cm in height and each inflorescence carries 3 - 5 large flowers. The flowers protrude almost horizontally from the stem, and their sepals and petals are yellowish-green. The lip is a dark blackish-purple with a velvety appearance. The mirror often forms a W-shape and is shiny and dark blue.
Ophrys iricolor is localised and rare throughout its range which is mainly in the eastern part of the Mediterranean and North Africa. There are reports from the western Mediterranean - in the Algarve region of Portugal for instance - but it is extremely rare there.
This orchid grows in open sunny positions on alkaline substrates. Impoverished stony grassland and abandoned farm terraces are good places to look.
The Rainbow Ophrys flowers from the middle of March until mid-April.
The specimen on this page was photographed in Crete, where several other members of the Ophrys fusca group also occur in good numbers.
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 fusca means 'dusky' or 'brown', while the subspecies name iricolor refers to the iridescent colouring of the speculum.
The Plant List
Sue Parker (2014) Wild Orchids of the Algarve - how, where and when to find them; First Nature
Chris Thorogood and Simon Hiscock (2014) Field Guide to the Wildflowers of the Algarve; Kew Publishing
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
If you found this information helpful, we are sure you would also like books on the Wild Orchids of Wales, of The Burren, and of the Algarve. Author-signed copies are available here...