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

O. knossia has been known from Crete for many years but was always considered to be either O. herae or O. grammica and in fact some authorities still refer to them as such. In 2002 however Monica Hirth undertook a study of O. herae which led her to conclude that this species was probably restricted in range to the island of Samos. Subsequently the Cretan plants were reclassified by Alibertis as O. grammica ssp knossia and then by Delforge as a full species, O. knossia.

The species is confined to Crete where it frequently grows alongside O. cretensis, a similarly proportioned but drabber Ophrys that shares an early flowering period. Hybridization is common and the resultant intermediates serve to make accurate identification of the two species highly problematic. The huge differences of appearance depicted in the accompanying photos demonstrate this very well.

Like O. cretensis, this is a small flowered orchid which shares characteristic features with its close relative O. grammica, chief amongst these being the stigmatic cavity and basal field which usually exhibits a lighter colouration than the rest of the lip. Often this colour can appear as a rather dirty orange. Basal swellings are normally present but can range from reduced to significant and the lip is often bordered with a narrow yellow or red marginal band. O. knossia is not common and highly localized but seems to be at its most frequent in central regions of the island where it prefers a full sun position on both calcareous and mildly acidic substrates.  

The illustrations are principally from the Archanes region of central Crete and date from the first week of April, at which time they were past their best.