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

This uncommon and fast declining Ophrys is predominantly found in a limited area of northern Italy centred on the Italian Lakes, though small numbers can stray almost to the Austrian border in the east and towards the Apennines in the south. Benacensis means from Lake Garda and unsurprisingly the orchids common name is the Lake Garda Ophrys. It was first described from Lake Garda in 1972 by Danesch, Danesch and Ehrendorfer.

The O. bertolonii group is distinctive and readily identifiable, though distinguishing the individual species  comprising the group is less straightforward, particularly as in many cases there are considerable overlaps of range. Where there is a distribution overlap, O. benacensis is known to hybridize with O. bertolonii itself, particularly in the south of its range.

The main distinction between O. benacensis and the latter species is the lip, which in O. bertolonii is convex and characteristically saddle shaped. With O. benacensis the labellum is longitudinally flat, sometimes with a central constriction. The stigmatic cavity is occupied by two prominent, greenish psuedo eyes but the specular stage can vary from wholly white to indistinct. It favours calcareous substrates up to 1000 metres and generally dry, often arid conditions in full sun. As already mentioned it is declining in numbers due almost entirely to tourist development on the slopes in and around the northern Italian lakes, notably Garda and Iseo. 

The photographs are from a hillside overlooking Lake Garda near Torri del Benaco in the Province of Verona and date from the second week of April.