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

O. ulyssea was first described from Cephalonia by Delforge in 2005, its formal recognition arising from work carried out in Crete by him in which he determined that O. villosa was not a single taxon but a polytipic species which actually comprised four further and distinct taxa. These consisted of O. dictynnae , O. korae, O. leochroma and O. ulyssea all of which shared a close resemblance. Distinguishing O. ulyssea is however less difficult as it's a very small flower in comparison to most other of the O. tenthredenifera group.

It is confined primarily to the Ionian islands where it often grows alongside its significantly larger flowered relative O. leochroma. It would however be extremely difficult to differentiate O. leochroma and O. ulysseafrom photographs alone. The latter species is really quite variable and providing a usable description is not at all straightforward. I will leave it therefore to the reader to study the photos and draw their own conclusions. It will be noted that many of the pictures depict flowers with extremely pilose lip margins which in some cases appear more "shaggy" than that of O. leochroma which was named in recognition of its lions mane like hair. Colour of both labellum and perianth can vary as with other O. tenthredenifera group members but overall flower configuration is fairly consistent. An exception to this is the example depicted in pictures 6 and 7, which it would appear has probably received some genetic input from a different species. Who the donor could be was not obvious at the site or indeed nearby ?

O. ulyssea is not uncommon on Cephalonia but becomes scarcer in the other Ionian islands and very rare in its few mainland outposts. It prefers dry, alkaline soils in rocky and sparsely vegetated terrain, invariably in full sun. The pictures are from Cephalonia and date from the second week of April.