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

O. ficalhoana was first described from Extremadura (Portugal) by Gumaraes in 1887 and is a member of the O. tenthredinifera group of Ophrys. Its name literally means "from Ficalhoa".

This is a species very similar to O. tenthredinifera and shares with it, almost identical habitat requirements and distribution. It differs however in being a more robust plant, with a more colourful and broad shouldered flower that features a noticeable and dense tuft of long yellowish, brown bristles immediately above the large, prominent appendage. Other distinguishing characteristics include more developed basal swellings and bracts which are usually concolourous with the petals and sepals.

As mentioned earlier, its distribution is similar to that of O. tenthredinifera, being centred on the Iberian Peninsula but with extensions into southern France, the Balearics and parts of North Africa. There is however some doubt amongst experts as to whether these African populations are indeed the same taxon. Both O. ficalhoana and O. tenthredinifera will thrive in a range of conditions from calcareous to highly acidic and in full sun or shade. The two species although sharing virtually identical habitat preferences, are not commonly found growing in close association with one another.

The flowering of the two species overlap, though O. ficalhoana is later than O. tenthredenifera, with the former not starting until April, by which time the latter will be past its best. The pictures are from Southern Spain and date from the 12th of April, at which time the plants in the colony had been blooming for less than a week.