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

O. arachnitiformis was first described from Var, France by Grenier and Philippe in 1859 and its name literally means "in the shape of a spider". It is commonly referred to as the False Spider Orchid.

This is a species which has been re-classified many times over the years and as a consequence is known by a range of synonyms. It is a highly variable orchid and this variation is often visible within the same colony where several of the named forms can be found growing in close proximity. There has however been an effort recently by a number of orchid specialists, to rationalize the species taxonomy and nomenclature and this has led to a position where at least one former variety "marzuola" has been separated out and is now named  O. occidentalis as a species in its own right.

The distribution of O. arachnitiformis is centred on the north of the Iberian peninsula but with extensions into Southern France and parts of the Ligurian coastline of Italy. It will thrive in a range of conditions from dry to moist and in full sun or light shade but always on calcareous substrates. It is an early flowering  species, this being a significant point of differentiation from other similar Ophrys. O. arachnitiformis flowers from late January and will be past its best by the beginning of April when other species are just coming into bloom. One of the few Ophrys which shares such an early season start is the highly localized O. massiliensis from southern France though this is quite easily distinguished by means of its smaller size and darker green sepals. The green veined white sepals and yellow/pink tinged petals depicted in the accompanying  pictures are highly characteristic of the species.The pictures come from Catalonia, Spain  and Bouches-du-Rhone, France, dating from the end of March, at which time flowering was well advanced.