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

This species was first described from Salerno, Italy in 1973 and its name refers to its quite spindly appearance. It is a fairly unremarkable but nonetheless easily recognized Ophrys that belongs to the O.   fuciflora group. Its range is poorly known but is thought to be principally central peninsula Italy together with a more restricted area of south east France based on the southern Vercors around the Provence of Drome.

In both the hubs of its distribution it grows in the company of many other fuciflorids but can be readily  differentiated from most of them by virtue of the already mentioned spindly appearance of the plant  and the small size of the flowers. The mature flower lacks the skirt of most of the O.fuciflora group species and although in the initial stage of its development the O. gracilis flower will reveal this feature, the onset of age quickly sees a strong recurvature of the lip that gives the species a characteristically  square frontal profile. The lip is uniformly covered with short hair and this imparts an overall velvety appearance to the flower.    

This species is one of several fuciflorids that the lumpers argue to be unworthy of specific status and it has to be conceded, that the population in Drome from which several of these pictures come, was adjacent to a significant colony of O. fuciflora  and intermediates were noted. The disjunct range of the species could also be seen as an indicator of simple morphological evolution rather than being of any more profound genetic significance.