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

O. argentaria was first described by Devillers-Terschuren and Devillers from Monte Argentaria in 1991 and is a member of the 12 strong O. exaltata group.

This Ophrys is an Italian endemic with a range from La Spezia in the north to the Latium region south of  Rome. As its name suggests O. argentaria is at its most frequent in the Grosetto area of southern Tuscany and it's in this area that its range overlaps with several other closely related species. There are three other Ophrys taxons that may be found in flower concurrently with O. argentaria between March and early May, O. classica,  O. tarquinia and the ubiquitous O. sphegodes. All these species have individual distinguishing features but years of introgression have created intermediate populations that defy accurate identification.

The following characteristics are typical of O. argentaria but as can be seen from the photographs, it is a variable species which as mentioned above has recieved significant gene interference. 1. Most importantly it is the smallest flowered of the four species. 2. The specular pattern is usually complex, often extensive and fragmented with extensions, marbling and ocelli. 3. Basal swellings are normally small or absent. 3; It tends to be a shorter plant, spindlier than the other species and with a laxer inflorescence, frequently containing fewer than six individual flowers.

O. argentaria is a localized orchid but can grow in large numbers in its favoured locations and although generally associated with alkaline soils, can tolerate slightly acidic or sandy conditions. All the photographs come from Tuscany, between Sienna and Monte Argentaria, dating from the first week of April.