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Ophrys zeusii

O. zeusii was first described from Epiros (Greece) by Hirth in 2002 and is a member of the large and ever expanding O. mammosa group of Ophrys.

Until recently and despite some expert disagreement, this species had widely been regarded as a varietal extreme of O. negadensis and it was only in 2002 that Hirth reassigned the latter species to the O. exaltata group and O. zeusii became a newly described species, still within the O. mammosa family.

Separating these two species is straightforward and there are several characteristics which help to differentiate them. Perhaps the most significant of these is lip pilosity, with O. zeusii exhibiting whitish marginal hair only on the shoulders and upper lateral lobes. In O. negadensis, as with most other members of the O. exaltata group, the marginal hair more or less encircles the labellum. The lip of O. zeusii is generally less three lobed and more flared, a feature that makes the yellow margin appear broader and more prominent. A further characteristic that divides these two taxons is the flowering period, O. negadensis first appearing in mid March and O. zeusii commencing in late April when the former species is well past its best.

These two species may be found in a variety of habitats but both show a preference for a degree of shade and open woodland, especially clearings and verges are therefore favoured positions. Its distribution is not known with certainty but seems to be limited to southern Albania and far northern Greece. The pictures are from the Mount Olympus region and date from the second week of May.