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Ophrys helios

helios was first described from the Greek island of Karpathos by Kreutz in 2001 and is a member of the widespread and largely Eastern Mediterranean O. bornmuelleri group of Ophrys.

Up until the turn of the 20th century most authorities believed the O. bornmuelleri group on Crete was only represented by O. episcopalis and that there were separate populations of an earlier flowering Ophrys  which had become known as O. maxima (recently reclassified as O. colossaea on Rhodes). Both these species  were thought to occur elsewhere in the Aegean and particularly Rhodes but research by Paulus and Hirth in 2009 confirmed that in fact the two species share the same pollinator and are therefore a single taxon. Nonetheless a further member of the group is now known to exist on the island and this is the recently described O. helios.  

On Crete, O. helios is one of three principal fuciflorid species present, the other two being O. candica and the more widespread O. episcopalis. This latter taxon can be a source of confusion given its similarity to O. helios and particularly as they frequently grow side by side. There are however differences and not least their respective flowering periods, O. episcopalis first appearing in late March and O. helios not until mid  April. They may however be found in bloom concurrently, particularly during April. O. helios is also a smaller flower, appearing rather broader at the shoulders and with more widely separated basal swellings. Both these species are variable, appearing in scolopaxoid form as well as trapezoid but in the case of O. helios, more usually quadrangular. The photographs are from Crete and date from the middle of April.