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

This Ophrys was first described by Parlatore from Palermo in 1838 and its name means "crescent shaped" as in the lunula of a finger nail, its common name being the Crescent Ophrys. O. lunulata is the title member of the small O. lunulata group and is endemic to Sicily and the nearby Eolian Islands. Although it is included in the official flora of Malta, its presence there is seen as doubtful.

This species is both distinctive and highly attractive, being locally common to the south and west of Mount Etna, where as well as on calcareous substrates, it happily grows amongst stable, colonized lava formations.

The lip of this species is strongly convex and from the front gives the orchid a characteristic long, thin appearance, easily recognized in the field. The degree of this recurvation and the depth of the yellow margin is apparent from pictures 10, 11 and 13, features which together with the thick sub marginal band of hair and small speculum serve to make O. lunulata a relatively straightforward orchid to identify.

In its pure form it is well known for its lack of variability in marking, shape and colouration, it does however show typical Ophrys enthusiasm for contributing genetic material to nearby species and picture 5 depicts a hybrid with O. bertolonii .

As already mentioned, once in the right area this is not a difficult orchid to locate and (for example) a walk along most roadside verges in the heart of the Pantallica National Park will soon reveal it.

All pictures date from the second two weeks of April 2011.