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

O. minuscula has been known for many years, originally being described by G & W Thiele in 2002 as a variety of O. cornuta. In 2004 it was taxonomically re-positioned by Devillers-Tursechuren and Devillers, becoming a variety of O. cerastes. Finally in 2010 Presser and Hertel argued the case for full species recognition, though some authorities still prefer to accord this orchid only varietal status.

One of the important issues that discouraged a more widespread acceptance of the argument for full speciation is the fact that O. minuscula was always found growing within colonies of O. cerastes and where O. minuscula was present within a population, intermediates could be common. This still holds true in Greek populations but its recent discovery growing solely in its miniature form in the Konvale district of central Croatia has complicated the position and perhaps lends more weight to the case for its specific status. In Greece O. cerastes itself is one of the commonest O. oestrifera group members, whereas O. minuscula has a far more limited distribution being confined to Epiros and a few of the larger west coast islands including Corfu and Lefkada.

O. minuscula can be a tall plant though as its name suggests the flowers are very small and with a lip length of approximately 7mm, some 30% smaller than that of O. cerastes. The pictures cannot of course convey this point but in the field this size difference is immediately apparent, its phenology is also somewhat different in that it flowers a week or two later than its larger relative. The first four pictures come from the Negades area of northern Greece and the last three from Croatia, all dating from early May.