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

This species was first brought to the attention of the orchid world by Danesch and Danesch from Grosseto, Italy in 1972. It was named O. exaltata ssp montis-leonis, although at that time many experts considered sub-species status to be a somewhat exalted position for an orchid they believed to be an as yet unstablised hybrid. In 1980, Golz and Reinhard produced a paper reintroducing the taxon as O. exaltata subsp. tyrrhena and in 2001 Delforge described it in his then newly produced reference book as a full species, naming it O. montis-leonis.

Expert opinion is still divided as to the status of this Ophrys, but given that its pollinator has been identified and that it appears to grow independently from the species assumed to be its progenitors, we continue assuming it to be a full species.

Descriptions of this taxon are difficult due to the high degree of variation exhibited, this variation being attributed to its hybrid origins that are thought to involve species from the O. fuciflora and O. exaltata groups. Morphologically O. tyrrhena can display characteristics from either or both of these groups but most frequently it favours its O. exaltata progenitor, as depicted in the pictures accompanying this text. It is endemic to Italy being found over a wide area stretching from the Ligurian coast down to Rome.

The photos come from an area of Tuscany 20 miles inland from Grosetto and date from the first week of May, at a time towards the end of their flowering cycle.