ags logo
Alpine Garden Society Plant Encyclopaedia
Plant search (Family/Genus/Species etc.)
Previous Genus: Ophiopogon
Next Genus: Opithandra

Genus: Ophrys

Ophrys Species in
Family: Orchidaceae

Approximately 30 species of tuberous-rooted ground orchids from Europe, western Asia, North Africa and Mediterranean islands. They produce basal rosettes of ovate to ovate-oblong leaves plus two or three narrower ones on the flowering stems. Each mature rosette produces an erect stem and a spike of two to twelve, often strikingly marked and shaped, flowers. Basically, each flower has three spreading petal-like sepals, two often much smaller petals which usually point obliquely upwards and a down or forward directed lip. The latter may be entire to three lobed, usually convex and more or less inflated, somewhat like an insect's body. In the upper central part of the lip is a shiny area or pattern of markings known as the speculum which gives the flower its distinctive appearance and can be diagnostically significant. Pollination is carried out by a variety of bees and wasps and their allies, which are highly specific to each orchid species, the orchid lip resembling in some degree the body of the female insect and giving off the same pheromones. The male insect is attracted and tries to mate with the flower (pseudo-copulation) and in so-doing the pollinia get stuck to its head ready for transmission to another plant. Ophrys is an unstable genus in an active state of evolution. Nearly all species are highly variable and there is great confusion as different botanists seek to sort them out taxonomically.


As for Orchis, but even more suited to the alpine house, where they make fascinating specimen pot plants. In the wild, most species inhabit grassland, woodland edges and garrigue, usually in alkaline, often terra rossa or other clay-type soils.