The main purpose on this site is to present an iconography of the
orchid genus OPHRYS Linné 1753 (Orchidaceae,
This typically western paleartic genus ranges over a vast territory
extending from Scandinavia in the north to northern Africa in the south
and from Ireland, Portugal and the Canary Islands in the west, to Russia
and Iran in the east, with its main concentration of species in the
For example, out of a total of 216 species, Italy (including Sardina and
Sicily) has 79 ; Greece (including the Greek Archipelago and Crete) 76 ;
Turkey 56 ; France (including Corsica) 48 ; Spain (including Balearic
Islands) 31 and Tunisia 17.
Well known by their pollination by pseudocopulation effected by hymenopterous
insects, these plants were extensively studied during the last 20 years,
mainly due to the impulse of the Arbeitskreis Heimische Orchideen Baden-Würtemberg
(Germany) and the Section Orchidées d'Europe des
Naturalistes Belges (Brussels, Belgium).
It was so put foreward that every species of Ophrys is bound to a different
pollinating insect species attracted by the flower fragrance closely
matching the insect female pheromons and by minute flower morphological
details like the shape and the size of the stigmatic cavity and the pilosity
of the label, all these adapted to the insect morphology.
Very efficient isolation barriers are so establised between different
species and allow an intensive speciation in the genus.
Should we add the easy travelling possibilities of our time, allowing a
researcher to quickly visit populations of plants in distant localities,
and the high standards of modern photography, it's easy to understand
that our knowledge of Ophrys tremendously increased. It
so became clear that many of the old well known names, like
O. bertolonii, O. fuciflora, O. shegodes and O. fusca,
to quote just some, represent aggregates of many (or even very many)
different species, isolated by size, flowering period, morphological
characters and pollinating insects.
It's therefore no surprise that the number of Ophrys species
greatly increased during recent years (and actually goes on growing !).
To document this increase, let's have a look at different publications
which were milestones in the study of Ophrys during the
last twenty years.
In 1980, H. Sundermann (Europäische und Mediterrane Orchideen, 3. Auflage)
recognised only 16 species. But he was clearly a lumper, and if we take into
account all his varieties and subspecies now accepted for good species,
we reach 55 species.
Six years later, in 1986, K. Buttler (Orchideen), should we also cope with
his subspecies, has 80 species.
In 1988, H. Baumann and S. Künkele (Die Orchideen Europas) reached
In 1994, P. Delforge (Guide des Orchidées d'Europe, d'Afrique du
Nord et du Proche-Orient, 1ère édition) had 148 species,
some of them not yet formally described.
In 2001, in the second edition of this Guide, the number has grown to
This, of course, sometimes induced debates among specialists who don't
always agree on the validity of some species, mainly in the very intricated
groups of O. fusca s.l., O. sphegodes s.l. and
O. fuciflora s.l. and when one Orphys species
has many pollinating insect species, or if one insect pollinates different
The classification here adopted closely follows Pierre Delforge's Guide
des Orchidées d'Europe, d'Afrique du Nord et du Proche-Orient, 2ème
édition, Delachaux et Niestlé S.A. Lausanne (Switzerland) -
Paris, 2001. (ISBN 2-603-01228-2).
This very complete guide, the result of extensive field and bibliographical
work extended over more than 30 years, holds the best, more accurate and
up-to-date review of the genus Ophrys (and of every other
genus of orchidaceous plants occurring in the western Palearctic, like,
for example, Epipactis, Orchis, Gymnadenia, Serpias ...). It's a
must for every person interested in the study of European orchids.
Back to HOMEPAGE