Ophrys tenthredinifera - Sawfly orchid

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

Ophrys tenthredinifera - Sawfly Orchid, Algarve, Portugal

Ophrys tethredinifera, Italy


This brightly coloured ophrys is regarded by many as the most beautiful of the genus. The plants of Ophrys tenthredinifera are compact and grow to around 45cm. Each inflorescence carries up to 10 large flowers. The sepals and petals are rose pink and marked with green veins. The lip has a brown background and a broad yellow margin around the edge. The speculum is a greyish-blue and is generally H-shaped.

Sawfly Orchids in Italy


This orchid is found mainly in the western and central Mediterranean region, becoming more scarce as you travel east.

Closeup of flower of the Sawfly Orchid


Open sunny or semi-shaded positions on calcareous substrates. Roadside verges, abandoned farmland and olive groves are good places to look.

Flowering times

In the Algarve region of Portugal this orchid flowers very early - from the end of January through to March. This phenomenon has lead some authorities to surmise that there is an early-flowering subspecies present in some parts of Europe. In other parts of its range the flowering reaches a peak in April.

Ophrys tenthredinifera, compact group of flowers

The photographs shown on this page were taken in the Gargano Peninsula area of Italy (top and bottom) in April, and the Algarve in Portugal in late March.


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 tenthredinifera means 'bearing a sawfy'.

Reference sources

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

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