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

O. garganica was first described from the Italian Province of Foggia in 1975 and its name refers (somewhat unsurprisingly!) to the centre of its distribution, the Gargano peninsula. This small but showy Ophrys is not universally accepted as a full species, with many authorities preferring to regard it as O. passionis v garganicaO. passionis is a species with which it shares both a close resemblance and a considerable overlap of range.

Despite its name, O. garganica is not confined to the Gargano region and may be found in many parts of both the Italian peninsular and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, it is however at its most numerous in Gargano and surrounding districts.

As may be seen from the illustrations, it is a variable orchid, particularly in the shape of its labellum which may be either entire or three lobed and in some cases possess distinct basal swellings. More consistent features of the species are the large (often dark brown) sepals, the usually maroon coloured lip and the (always) green sepals. In O. passionis the sepals can also be green but the petals are smaller and it more commonly exhibits pronounced basal swellings. Morphological differences are however small and the two species share the same pollinator ( Andrena carbonaria ) which renders it inconceivable that genetically mixed plants dont occur.

O. garganica will grow in most suitable, calcareous habitats in full sun, up to an altitude of 1100m but is also tolerant of light woodland where the floor is free of competitive vegetation. The pictures here come from Mount Gargano and Sicily, dating from early April in the latter location and late April in the former.