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Ophrys omegaifera

O. omegaifera
was first described by Fleischmann from Lassithi (Crete) in 1925 and its name alludes to the prominent omega like crescents at the tip of the speculum.

This is primarily an Aegean species with a distribution from the Cyclades archipelago south to southern Anatolia and east to Cyprus. It is a highly localised orchid which is perhaps at its most frequent in the calcareous massifs of Crete, where it grows alongside its similar but much rarer cousins, O. basilissa and O. fleischmanii. This species is a member of the small (but expanding) O. omegaifera group which has recently been receiving the close attention of several eminent botanists and not least Messrs Delforge and Paulus. Their work has been mainly concentrated in the larger Aegean islands and has resulted in plants previously regarded as O. omegaifera being split into a further three species differentiated primarily by geography and flowering times. These new taxons comprise O. apollonae, O. polycratis and O. meropes (Kos only).

O. omegaifera is a distinctive species flowering from March to mid April. Its flowering is preceded by that of O. basilissa and O. sitiaca and is then followed by O. polycratis, it can however be in bloom concurrently with O. apollonae. These flowering times are of course influenced by altitude and latitude so need to be treated with some caution. It may be distinguished from O. basilissa by its smaller size and slimmer profile and from O. fleischmanii by its larger size and significantly less dense white pilosity. The species is not particularly variable but confusion can arise due to the species propensity for hybridisation, both within its group and outside. The pictures come from Crete and date from the first two weeks of April.