Ophrys sphegodes subsp. cretensis

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

Ophrys sphegodes subsp. cretensis


Often referred to simply as Ophrys cretensis this inconspicuous plant is hard to spot. Growing to a maximum of 50cm, but more commonly around the 20cm mark, the drab colouring of this orchid is perfect camouflage. Each infloresence carries up to 11 small flowers which have green sepals and petals. The flower lip bears a speculum in the H-shape which denotes its close relationship to Ophrys sphegodes - Early Spider Orchid.

Ophrys sphegodes subsp. cretensis, closeup of flower


Ophrys cretensis grows in Crete and other southern Agean islands. It is endemic to the islands and is both rare and localised.


Ophrys cretensis grows in dry-to-moist calcareous substrate in full sun or mid-shade in phrygana, short grassland and open woodland.

Flowering times

This orchid flowers from mid-February until the beginning of April.

The plants on this page were photographed near Heraklion on the northern coast of Crete in early 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 sphegodes comes from ancient Greek seems to suggest a wasp-like appearance of the flowers of this orchid., while the subspecies name cretensis means from Crete, the Greek island 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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