John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
Home Back to Ophrys species Links

Ophrys helenae

O. helenae was first described from the Greek island of Corfu by Renz in 1928 and is a member of the widespread O. mammosa group of Ophrys. It was named after the mother of the author of its description.

Despite its relative abundance, this species is one of the beauties of northern Greece, where its unique and unmistakable appearance make its identification a formality. As can be seen from the photographs, the basic shape and conformation of the flower is quite uniform, the same however cannot be said for colouration which can be hugely variable. One of the unique and characteristic features of O. helenae is the complete lack of any specular pattern and this in itself is sufficient to distinguish it from any other species of Ophrys.

This species can be found in small numbers in southern Albania but is otherwise largely a Greek specialty which notwithstanding an unconfirmed single report from the Peloponnese, is probably confined to continental north west Greece and adjacent islands (Corfu, Cephalonia) north of the Gulf of Corinth. As has already been mentioned however, in its favoured locations it can be the dominant orchid species, occurring in huge numbers and in great variety.

O. helenae has a relatively long flowering season and may be found from late March to early June, though May is normally its prime flowering month. It can be found in a variety of habitats and given that in some areas it can often be the sole orchid species present, appears to tolerate conditions unsuited to others.

The pictures come from northern Greece  and Cephalonia dating from late April and the beginning of May.