John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
Home Back to Ophrys species Links

                                  Ophrys atlantica

O. atlantica was first described by Munby from the Atlas mountains of Algeria in 1856 and its name literally means "from the Atlas". This is the single member species of the O. atlantica group and it occurs only in  Algeria, Morocco and the Andalucia region of Spain, beings rare in all three countries. Until recently this orchid was known as O. fusca ssp durieui,  a synonym still in common usage.
This species is unusual amongst the Pseudophrys in being highly distinctive and virtually impossible to confuse with any other taxon. The most prominent of its distinguishing characteristics is the curvature of the lip, a   feature that grows progressively more exaggerated with age. This can be observed from the illustrations where picture 7 depicts a newly opened flower and 8 an older plant in advanced anthesis. Interestingly this strong curvature is a trait shared with O. bertolonii and is almost certainly an adaptation to accommodate the arching abdomen of their mutual pollinator Chalicodama parientina.
A second notable characteristic of O. atlantica is the length of the petals which are significantly longer than those of most other Pseudophrys. Although a species tolerating a wide range of habitats, its preference is for dry conditions in lightly shaded pine woodland. Altitude does not appear to be of great importance, growing quite happily in both lowland areas and elevations up to about 1500 metres.
The pictures here are all from a mountainous region in the Spanish Province of Malaga and date from the 16th of April, at which time many of the plants were well past their best. At lower altitudes O. atlantica would be in full flower by the beginning of April.