John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Orchis olbiensis

O. olbiensis is a member of the large O. mascula group and was first described from Var, France in 1859.     Its name refers to the ancient Greek colony of Olbia, now known as Hyeres in southern France. 

It is a western Mediterranean species found predominantly in the Iberian peninsula, southern France and north Africa but with smaller populations in Corsica, Balearics and Liguria. Although local, it is widespread and can be relatively common in its favoured locations, these being dry, calcareous soils in either full sun or within open woodland.

One of the key identification characteristics is its early flowering, where in the warmer parts of its range and particularly coastal districts, it is quite possible to find O. olbiensis in full flower by the middle of  March. This species is usually spindly with a lax flower head of no more than fifteen individual flowers that can vary in colouration from deep red to white. The flowers are heavily marked with mauve spots or streaks and the borders of the lip present a somewhat ragged appearance. The leaves form a loose basal rosette and are usually unmarked although as can be seen in picture 11, they can occasionally carry heavy, dark purple blotching.

The flowers are small for the group but unusually carry a light but nonetheless pleasant scent. The spur is longer than the ovary and always pointed upwards.

The illustrations are from southern Spain, Mallorca and southern France, dating from the end of March to the beginning of April.