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

First described by Baumann and Kunkele from Galilea, Israel in 1988, this is one of Europes commoner fuscas and can be found throughout the Eastern Mediterranean from Greece and the Aegean basin to northern Israel. Interestingly it is absent from Crete.

Despite the fact that it can often be abundant, it's not always easy to identify, especially in areas such as the Aegean islands where there are a host of similar species and hybrids attempting and often acheiving convincing impersonations. A good place to identify this plant with some certainty is Cyprus where there are very few other similar Ophrys with which to confuse it ! O. israelitica is an early flowerer and in the east of its range can be in flower as early as mid February (March and April in the west).

The flower has a very hairy lip, with the speculum being bold, with a blue base marbled grey or white and which is tipped with a broad,  well demarcated silver/white omega. Perhaps the most reliable diagnostic feature however is the the way in which the flowers are held horizontally out from the stem. Unfortunately other members of the O. omegaifera group to which this plant belongs, also share this characteristic although O. omegaifera itself and O. basilissa possess bigger, rounder and more reflexed flowers. O. sitiaca is a species which can present a real recognition challenge but is significantly earlier in flower and is not present in Cyprus. These pictures come from Cyprus and were just commencing flowering in the first week of March. In the Aegean they commence flowering some two or three weeks later.