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

O. obaesa
is endemic to Sicily and first described by Lojacono in 1909, its name meaning "swollen", a reference to the puffy look of the lip. It is the eponymous member of the six strong O. obaesa group.

For the non-expert, distinguishing Pseudophrys in Sicily can be a challenging, often discouraging process and so it's refreshing to find one in O. obaesa about which you can be reasonably confident in your diagnosis. Although it can show a degree of variation (particularly in shape), it usually appears in the field as it appears in the text books as a dark, shiny, reddy brown Ophrys with orange colouration around the stigmatic cavity and a smokey blue crescent at the bottom of a blackish speculum.

O. obaesa has several distinctive features key amongst these is the undulating longitudinal profile of the lip which rises at the basal crests, becomes depressed at the bottom of the speculum and then kinks upwards again at the tip of the median lobe (see photo 8). The second distinguishing feature, is the way in which the flowers are grouped at the top of the stem and thus give the plant a crowded, somewhat untidy look (see photo 9). The number of flowers varies between two and six and are held at a near horizontal angle to the normally slender stem.

This Ophrys is local and never seen in large numbers but is not rare and found in several different habitats, including dense woodland, though always on alkaline substrates. O. obaesa has a long flowering period from March to May and the photographs accompanying this text date from the beginning of April.