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

O. mesaratica
was first described from Crete in 1990 and it takes its name from the plain of Mesara in the south of the island. It is one of five members of the O. iricolor group and has a disjunct range in Southern Crete, Malta and on Lesbos. Its full distribution is not fully known however and it seems likely it will be found to occur on other islands in the southern Aegean basin. Nonetheless its a rare orchid which taken together with its early flowering, indicates that it is potentially an overlooked species.

The species common name is the Cretan Blue Orchid but this is perhaps somewhat complimentary to an orchid that although possessing a pleasing architectural form, is in fact a rather small and dull flower. The speculum is a steely grey, often marbled with black or dark brown and quite unlike the sometimes extravagant colouration and markings of O. iricolor .  

Although the range of the two species overlap, they are unlikely to be confused due to the very early flowering (from December to March) of O. mesaritica. Previously this species was regarded as purely an early flowering O. iricolor and there are those that still hold to this view. Both species are large, robust plants but the flower size difference and general morphology seem to make this link improbable. Another important distinguishing feature between the two species ( if one is needed ) is the colouration of the underside of the lip which in O.iricolor is always pale purple but variably green/brown in O. mesaritica.