|John and Gerry's Orchids of Britain and Europe|
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O. ferrum-equinum was first described by Desfontaines from Samos in 1807 and its name refers to the horseshoe shaped speculum pattern. This is a relatively stable characteristic of the species, though as can be seen from the photographs it is sometimes reduced to two isolated droplets. The species is essentially a Greek orchid although it also occurs in Anatolia and sparingly in neighbouring Albania. O. ferrum-equinum is a member of the large O. mammosa group and is undoubtedly one of its more attractive and distinctive members.
O. ferrum-equinum is widespread throughout Greece but can be unaccountably absent from large, seemingly suitable areas. On occasion however it occurs in huge numbers and we recall a colony near Lagonisi in Attica that was thousands strong, forming a vast drift along a shallow valley near the coast. The species is highly variable and many forms, variants and subspecies have been formally described, though all seem to fall within the nominative type. Amongst the better known are, ssp labiosa, ssp convexa, var pseudogottfriediana, var minor, var anafiensis, f subtriloba and f parnassica, some of which occur throughout the range of and within colonies of the nominate species. As has been mentioned above, O. ferrum-equinum is hugely variable and as a species its nomenclature and the taxonomic positioning of the various forms is the source of considerable professional debate.
The illustrations are generally representative of variations within the nominative species, though Photo 12 depicts an interesting example from Chios, of a plant that carries a rudimentary "necklace" reminiscent of the closely related O. spruneri.
The following oddities are all from Mount Hymettus near Athens.