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

O. funerea was first described from Corsica by Viviani in 1824 and is the title member of the thirteen strong O. funerea group of Ophrys.

This species is thought to be endemic to Corsica and Sardinia, being highly localized and rare on both of these Mediterranean islands. It is perhaps at its most frequent in the Laconi region of central Sardinia, home also to the even scarcer O. ortuabis, though the two have quite different habitat preferences. Another Sardinian endemic is also present in the region, this being the more widespread O. zonata, which although a larger species in all in parts is otherwise morphologically virtually indistinguishable from O. funerea. Sardinia hosts four (non yellow) Pseudophrys species, these being (in flower size order) the tiny O. ortuabis, the small O. funerea, the medium sized O. zonata and the large O. eleonorae, This progression is a convenient rough guide by which to differentiate them.

Some authorities regard O. funerea and O. zonata as the same species differing only in size, this being a perfectly normal natural variation in many taxons. Despite the huge similarities in their respective flowers, there are two significant differences. Size has already been mentioned but also at variance is their sociability, O. funerea nearly always growing in colonies of twenty plants or more, whereas O. zonata grows either individually or in loose populations spread over a wide area. Typically O. funerea exhibits a less colourful speculum, lacking the accentuated grey crescents present in O. zonata, the lip is also less longitudinally convex. These latter differences are however unreliable and plant size, together with population density are the most dependable differentiators. The illustrations are from Sardinia and date from the first two weeks of April.