|John and Gerry's Orchids of Britain and Europe|
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O. penelopeae was first described by Paulus from Cephalonia in 2014 and is a member of the O. lutea group of Ophrys. This small orchid was at first thought to represent Ionian populations of O. phryganae but it was later recognized that certain characteristics were at variance to that species and they were duly separated and named after the Greek goddess of faithfulness and fidelity, Penelope.
The distributuion of this species is very much centred on Cephalonia and the neighbouring island of Ithakia, though as with O. ulyssea, it maintains a small presence on the mainland, particularly around Tripoli. There are also reports of a very similar Ophrys occurring in the far south of Albania but identification does not appear to have yet been confirmed. O. penelopeae seems to tolerate a wide range of alkaline habitats, including sand dunes where it has been noted growing in bare slacks, keeping company with distinguished Cephalonian rarities O. stavri and O. mavrochila. Its small size (being smaller even than O. phryganae which does not occur in Cephalonia) usually enables confident identification, but if in doubt the strong lip geniculation and large basal prominences can be treated as diagnostic. O. hellenica is present on Cephalonia and shares these features but is unmistakably larger.
O. penelopeae is both small flowered and a small plant, which could be easily overlooked, particularly as although growing in some often arid conditions, seems to prefer the degree of partial shade offered by a rock or low scrub. It is however a colonial species thereby making it easier to locate.The photos are from various sites around Cephalonia and date from the middle of April at which time the plants were beginning to decline.