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

Ophrys bertolonii

This often abundant Ophrys although primarily an Italian orchid, may also be found around the Adriatic  coasts of the former Yugoslavia, southern France (rarely) and on the island of Corfu. It was first described from Genoa (Italy) in 1823 by the eminent 19th century Italian botanist Signor Antonio Bertoloni.

The O. bertolonii group is distinctive and readily identifiable, though distinguishing the individual species that comprise the group is less straightforward, particularly as in many cases there are considerable overlaps of range. In southern France O. bertolonii overlaps with both O. saratoi and O. aurelia, in the Gargano region it often grows side by side with O. bertoloniformis and in Sicily it encounters the very rare but very similar O. explanata .

The distinctions between O. bertolonii and the latter are described under O. explanata but mainly refer to the  size and shape of the stigmatic cavity. With O. bertoloniformis there are clear differences but in Gargano where the two associate closely, hybridization is common and accurate identification can be a difficult process. In genetically pure populations O.  bertiloniformis can be distinguished by the lack of hollow walls in the stigmatic cavity and importantly the green sepals. Picture 11 depicts an example of O. bertolonii from southern Italy where white sepals are relatively common.

The remaining pictures are from Gargano and Sicily, dating from the middle weeks of April. It is however quite possible to find O. bertoloniiin flower at any time between March and June as it enjoys a very long flowering period that is closely associated with the variable emergence of its two pollinating bee species.  

The following three pictures come from Sicily and are presumably hybrids although the precise genetic contributors are unknown. The final picture is particularly interesting as it depicts a plant that has a striking resemblance to  O. bertiloniformis, an orchid only found on the Gargano peninsula.