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

O. saratoi was first described by Camus from Alpes-Maritimes (France) in 1893 and is named after the eminent 19th century French botanist, C. Sarato. In appearance it is unmistakably a member of the O. bertolonii group and being endemic to southern France, is often drawn into the debate concerning the taxonomic relationship of nearby O. bertolonii group species, particularly the larger flowered O. aurelia

It grows in the Alpine foothills along the Mediterranean coast to the Italian border, occuring as far west as Marseilles and reaching Drome and Ardeche to the North. O. saratoi is both local and rare, frequently growing in the company of the very similar group members O. aurelia and O. drumana, with which it will readily hybridize. It can be distinguished from O. aurelia by its smaller and more delicate flowers whilst the lip itself is generally thinner at the tip than at the shoulders. With O. aurelia it is the reverse. O. saratoi also lacks the saddle shape that is very obvious in the lateral profile of O. aurelia.

O. saratoi differs from O. drumana in its larger floral parts and the inflorescence which is laxer and fewer flowered. As has already been mentioned, this species will readily hybridize with other Ophrys and the two sites from which these photographs come, were large colonies of mixed O.saratoi and O. aurelia, where unsurprisingly intermediates were common. The frequency with which the two species are found growing together and the presence of numerous indeterminate hybrids encourage many authorities to consider the two species synonymous. The last picture depicts one of these hybrids.

Illustrations come from sites near the small town of Mons in Var and date from the beginning of May.