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

O. occidentalis was first described from the Rhone valley, France by Scappaicci and Demange in 2005, it was a species already well known to botanists as O. marzuola or O. arachnitiformis ssp Marzuola.

The reclassification of this species has resulted from separate studies over the last ten years involving the early flowering Ophrys of southern France and northern Spain. These studies were undertaken by several different experts and to date, have not led to any great consensus as far as an agreed nomenclature or taxonomic position is concerned. As a consequence it's difficult to provide a definitive species description or geographic range and until some clarification is produced the photographs can only be regarded as reliably depicting the species formally known as O. marzuola.

This species has been placed within the O. exaltata group and there seems to be general agreement that it's primarily to be found in the middle and lower Rhone valley with an easterly range reaching the foothills of the Vercors and in the west extending as far as the Cevennes.

It is a robust plant, with flowers that can be exceptionally variable, typically being less colourful than O. passionis, which can often be found flowering in the same habitat and at the same time. The speculum tends to be less flamboyant and the yellow lip margins less pronounced or absent. It can usually be separated from O. arachnitiformis  by the green sepals, but it is not unknown for O. occidentalis to have a white/pink perianth very similar to that of this latter species. 

The pictures come from Bouches-Du-Rhone, France and date from the last week of March, at which time flowering was already well advanced.