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

O. exaltata is endemic to the island of Sicily and the adjoining mainland province of Calabria. It was first  described in 1819 and is the titular member of the 12 strong O. exaltata group of Ophrys

As can be seen from the illustrations, although the sepal colouration can vary somewhat, the lip shape and markings are fairly consistent. The sepals can range from pure white through pale pink to light green and usually have a strong dark green vein, though this is less obvious in green sepaled plants. It is by no means uncommon to find examples with virtually no distinguishable veining at all.

O. exaltata is a distinct orchid and tends to catch the eye by virtue of its long, light coloured sepals. It can however be confused with its fellow group member and Sicilian endemic O. panormitana which is highly variable and in some forms can strongly resemble its close cousin. O. panormitana is usually more hairy, has an obvious lime green stigmatic cavity and the sepals, although with a very similar range of colouration and markings, are noticeably plumper and shorter.

Both species may grow side by side and share a preference for similar types of habitat, this will normally comprise maquis and dry scrub, though they also share a liking for more disturbed sites such as settled rock falls, quarries and road verges.

This Ophrys is not at all common but can be frequent in its favoured locations, mainly in the central and south east of Sicily. In Calabria, O. exaltata has similar habitat preferences but is a much rarer plant. The photographs date from the first two weeks of April 2011.