|John and Gerry's Orchids of Britain and Europe|
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O. biscutella was first described by Danesch and Danesch from the Italian province of Foggia in 1970. Its name literally means "two shields" and refers to its speculum which usually (though by no means always) displays two separated and vaguely triangular, shield like markings.
It is a member of the 13 strong O. argolica group and endemic to Italy, where its range is centred on the southeastern coastal provinces, primarily Foggia and particularly the Gargano peninsula. There are however outlying populations across the Adriatic in Croatia and more surprisingly the species has been found in very small numbers on the western side of Italy, in the Cilento National Park, better known as the stronghold of the similar O. pollinensis. In the Apulia region, O. biscutella is a somewhat local plant, but is by no means uncommon and can sometimes be found in large numbers in its favoured sites. Identification is reasonably straightforward, particularly as its restricted range does not significantly overlap with that of any other O. argolica group members. It is however an enthusiastic gene sharer and hybridization occurs commonly. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Gargano where O. biscutella grows alongside a large variety of other Ophrys species and where cross breeding has resulted in intermediates of astonishing variety.
As can be seen from the illustrations, this species is naturally variable and identifying gene interference somewhat difficult, there are however a few stable features which can help. The twin shield like markings of the speculum, the hunched, densely hairy shoulders and chestnut-red basal field are all key identifying characteristics.
The photos are all from Gargano and bordering areas of Puglia. They date from the first week of May.
The following photos depict hybrids with :- O. fuciflora ( 1 and 2 ) , O. bertolonii ( 3 ) and O. bertoloniiformis ( 4, 5 and 6 ).