John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Ophrys aesculapii

O. aesculapii was first described from Argolide, Greece by Rentz in 1928 and is a member of the large and growing O. mammosa group of Ophrys. It was named after the Greek god of medicine, Asclepius.

This is surely one of Greece's most handsome Ophrys, which although uncommon and very limited in range, can be numerous in it's favoured stations. Unusually amongst the Ophrys of Greece, O. aesculapii is quite distinctive and apart from colouration, not especially variable. The speculum may be simple or complex but is always prominent and well defined with the white edged blue lining contrasting strongly with the dark colouration of the lip. It can easily be confused with O. zeusii but although their is a range overlap in northern Greece, the two species are not often found in association.

It's an endemic whose range is entirely within continental Greece, largely to the north of the Corinth canal  but also sparingly in the Peloponnese and through Attica to Euobea. Habitat requirements seem to be undemanding and we have found it prospering in both full sun and comparatively heavy shade. Variety Pseudoaranifera is a fewer flowered form that occurs sporadically amongst nominate populations and exhibits a broader speculum with a less noticeable or absent yellow margin. This variety is depicted in photos 4 and 10 from northern Greece.

The photos are from Mt Hymettus, Attica and the Larissa region of north east Greece, dating from the last week of March (Attica) and the third week of April (Larissa).