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

O. lepida was first described by S & J. M. Moingeon in 2005 and is a member of the O. subfusca group of Ophrys, commonly also referred to as O. subfusca ssp liverani.  Its name derives from the latin word lepidus, meaning pleasant, elegant and witty ?

This species is endemic to Sardinia where its range is centred primarily on the central region around Laconi, home also to the extremely rare O. ortuabis. Typical O. lepida is a reasonably straightforward orchid to identify due to its large flower size, together with distinctively strong basal prominences and heavily geniculated lip. In the field however, the position is often complicated by the presence of similar, albeit smaller taxons that have interbred and formed hybrids of intermediate character. The precise identification of these similar plants is the subject of professional disagreement, the three most widely proposed species being O. sicula, O. phryganae and O. corsica. Many believe the latter two species are synonymous but which of these taxons exist in Sardinia has yet to be satisfactorily established.

As already mentioned, the large size of the flower in genetically pure plants, easily distinguishes O. lepida from its cousins. It is similarly proportioned to O. lutea and also exhibits a close morphological resemblance to that species. It flowers from April into May depending on altitude and prefers alkaline soils in full sun, being quite at home in the driest scrub and garrigue, often in mountainous regions up to 1500 metres.

The flowers which can number up to ten are placed alternately up the inflorescence atop a longish stem which can grow up to 40cms high. The illustrations date from the second week of April.