4. ‘Bottoms up! Up yours!’ O. mesaritica.

Habitat: Uphill Larissos valley.

19 mrt 12 099

Ophrys mesaritica, Larissos corner. © JvL 19-3-2012 #099

Ophrys mesaritica H.F.Paulus, Ch. Alibertis & A. Alibertis 1990. Ophrys iricolor group, 2 species on Lesvos: Ophrys mesaritica & Ophrys iricolor.

HUNTING: It’s not always that I go out for an Orchid hunt and return with hundreds of photographs of a species which I haven’t found before. For instance like today. Five hours driving and walking without seeing one single Orchid. And after a certain time you don’t see ‘things’ clearly anymore. So time for a coffee and up to a habitat where you know for sure that ‘they’ are around. The only thing you never know is: am I at the right time? Orchids flower approximately for 3 weeks, but every year this is at a different time because of the weather of the previous months (see BLOG 1). But sometimes you are lucky and sometimes you’re not.

19 mrt 12 041

Ophrys mesaritica, Larissos corner. © JvL 19-3-2012 #041

HABITAT: Therefore I went to a special habitat, next to an old cement or asphalt factory and nowadays a car dump. This area gets dirtier every year; everywhere you look there is rubbish, plastic, cut off olive branches, toilet paper and things you don’t want to know what they are! But in between all this dirt there are Orchids! And nice ones too! But today I didn’t see any, only the rosettes so I have to blog about them another time. I drove a little bit further on a very small track, the branches of some trees and shrubs made nice scratches on the sides of my car, and then you can’t go further, because you’re in an olive grove. You step out of your car, you look around and the picture below is what I saw on the 28th of February two years ago.

16 mrt 10 133

Ophrys mesaritica, Larissos corner. © JvL 28-2-2010 #133

On first sight you think: ‘O, that’s Ophrys iricolor’. But then you think; ‘what the hell, iricolor in February, that is not possible because they start flowering somewhere at the end of March/beginning of April, so could this be Ophrys mesaritica?’ But Ophrys mesaritica is not known to grow on Lesvos, only on Crete, Kythera, Kefallonia, Lefkada and Corfu. But then what? Those Ophrys are definitively not Ophrys iricolor! Of course you read your orchid books carefully so you know that the underside of the flower of iricolor is red and from mesaritica green. Yes. So you look carefully at their bottoms and they are all… reddish! And to make a jump in time; the last two years I looked at hundreds of bottoms of Ophrys from the iricolor group. And I saw dark & light red, light & dark brown, whitish-green & reddish-green bottoms! And actually who says those plants can’t be Ophrys mesaritica? No orchidologist, florists, biologists or botanists are around in February or March to check the bottoms of those Ophrys on this habitat or on Lesvos. Therefore I did that for them, and all those poor Ophrys are suffering from heavy afterpain on their flower stems…
On Lesvos I found between the middle of February and the middle of March a lot of Ophrys which are definitely NOT Ophrys iricolor if we consider their time of flowering, the size of those plants (mesaritica grows higher), the different way of flowering (mesaritica have more vertical hanging flowers, the flowers of iricolor are more horizontal standing) and mesaritica has also more flowers then iricolor. I counted max 8 for mesaritica, max 4 for iricolor.

RESEARCH: ANTONOPOULOS (2009) made an iricolor group which includes Ophrys astypalaeica, Ophrys iricolor, and Ophrys mesaritica. But: ‘Differentiation between the species of this group do not present problems; since the species have different geographical distributions or different flowering periods (Ophrys mesaritica flowers earlier)’. Thanks Zissis! I thought I had an identification crisis or a determination problem but thanks to you I haven’t!

28 febr 11

Ophrys mesaritica, Larissos corner. © JvL 28-2-2010 #728, #732, #740, #742

And lets see what BAUMANN/KÜNKELE/LORENZ (2006) have to say about Ophrys mesaritica. ‘Distinct from subsp. iricolor by earlier flowering time, smaller flowers and lighter (only green?) lip bottom. Lip 12-14 x 9-11mm, violet brown. (Iricolor 12.5-17 x 12.5-16mm, velvety black violet)’. Interesting that they write ‘lighter’ and only ‘green’ with a question mark so they are also not sure about the bottom colours!

28 febr 12 092, 088, 075, 080

Ophrys mesaritica, Larissos corner. © JvL 19-3-2012 #091, #088, #075, #080

And they still use the name Ophrys iricolor ssp. mesaritica (H.F. Paulus, C. & A. Alibertis) Kreutz. Kreutz? This is after 1990 because earlier it was Ophrys mesaritica H.F. Paulus, C.& A.  Alibertis 1990. Maybe Kreutz thought that: a) mesaritica is a subspecies of iricolor, so I like to name it like that; b) this name was still available because nobody claimed it yet and so I can put my name behind it. Kreutz is ‘normally’ not an orchidologist who renames species into subspecies, more the other way around. And if we search in ‘Die Orchideen der Türkei’ (1998), in ’Die Orchideen von Rhodos, Karpathos’ (2002) and in ‘The Orchids of Cyprus’ (2004), all by the hand of C.A.J. KREUTZ, then we don’t find an Ophrys iricolor ssp. mesaritica or an Ophrys mesaritica. Only in this last book he mentions Ophrys mesaritica: ‘As KRETZSCHMAR’, who visited the island (Cyprus) in February, reports (1995), these Cypriot early-flowering plants show no variation whatsoever from the normal type, as happened, for example on Crete, where the early flowering taxon was separated and described by Paulus & Alibertis as Ophrys mesaritica.’ And: ‘A distinctive characteristic of Ophrys iricolor is the ventral side of the labellum, which is always reddish or reddish brown.’ Ventral? So my header should be: Ventral’s up?

In his iricolor group DELFORGE (2005) described 5 species: Ophrys astypalaeica (endemic to the island Astypalea in the Dodecanese), Ophrys iricolor (whole Eastern Mediterranean), Ophrys mesaritica (South-central Crete, Malta, ?Lesvos), Ophrys vallesiana (Northern Tunisia and Kroumirie?) and Ophrys eleonorae (Central Mediterranean). Ah, so maybe Delforge visited Lesvosin February/March? Let’s read what he writes in his ‘Discussion of the Ophrys iricolor group’: ‘The 2 central Mediterranean species (O. eleonorae and O. vallesiana) seem to be very closely related, linked especially by the concentric coloration of the centre of the underside of the lip – crimson bordered with yellowish-green. The structure and colour of the lip may also link the 3 eastern species into a cohesive group, of which O. iricolor would be the central figure; nevertheless, O. mesaritica is known from Crete and Malta and probably occurs on Lesbos, and this may indicate a central ancestral position for this species (O. mesaritica, JvL) within the group.’

25 mrt 12 027

Ophrys mesaritica, Larissos corner. © JvL 25-3-2012 #027.

 BOTTOM-LINE: Let’s talk about colour. Yes, the flowers of Ophrys mesaritica are a little bit more reddish-brown from the top and the bottoms… well, as you can see on my photographs I found mesaritica with red, dark brown, crimson red, almost green and almost whitish-green undersides. But how come? Well, it may be very simple: the first flowers to appear have dark red bottoms; the older and the bigger the plant grows the bottoms just get paler and paler…

25 mrt 12 007

Ophrys mesaritica, Larissos corner. © JvL 25-3-2012 #007.

And because I think they’re not Ophrys iricolor and if you think that they’re not Ophrys mesaritica then there are only two other options: either they belong to the central Mediterranean species like O. eleonorae and O. vallesiana or it’s a new and (of course) endemic species, Ophrys larisotica! Etymology: From the Larisos valley of Lesvos.

Jan van Lent, Lesvos, 27-03-2012.

Nickelback: ‘Bottoms Up’ (cover by X-Y)



3. Dactylorhiza romana: ‘True Colours’

Habitat: Kafkares & Sarakina, on the road to Palios.

8-12-09 071

The Palios castle. © JvL 8-12-2009 #071

Dactylorhiza romana (Sebastiani) Soó 1960/62.
The Dactylorhiza sambucina group, only one species on Lesvos:
Dactylorhiza romana.

HABITAT: After days of rain, harsh winds and cold temperatures, the weather is again back to being ‘Greek’, because for the last week it was more like ‘English’. So I went out to the most north-east part of the island, to Palios, which means ‘old’ in English. Palios is now a very tiny fisherman’s village and harbour; in wintertime nobody is living in this remote village anymore. In the old times Palios was a very important place, on this spot the pilgrims arrived on boats from across the sea (12 km), from what is now Turkey, earlier the Ottoman empire and before that a part of Greece. It was so important that it had its own castle where the pilgrims – who wanted to visit the Taxiarchis monastery – had to pay tolls before going on their way to Mandamados. Today only the stone walls remain from this once so important castle. Also nature in this whole area along the coast between Ag. Stefanos and Palios is very special: big red volcano stones are scattered through the landscape, and in winter and spring there is a lot of water around. But the hundreds of holes with stagnant water, pools, springs, watercourses and swamps are drying out by the end of May and only some deeper ponds remain. Because of all this water plants also grow here in abundance. At the end of March this whole area is covered in purple by the French lavender (Lavendula stoechas).

16 mrt 12 112

Dactylorhiza romana, Palios. © JvL 16-03-2012 #112

HUNTING: But yesterday nature here was just awakening. No Lavender, no Sage-leaved Cistus (Cistus salvifolius), no Annual Rockrose (Tuberaria guttata), no Orchis morio and not even the special, normally always present bird, the Ruddy shelduck (Tandorna ferruginea) was yet around. On 21 February last year I already found hundreds of Orchis, Serapias and Dactylorhiza so I was surprised that I could not find one plant, one Orchid in flower now! So I went deep into the bush, got wet feet when they sank into mud in a swamp and after one hour or so searching finally discovered a small pink Dactylorhiza romana. And small it was, just 16 cm high, so between the bushes it was hard to see. In comparison with the Orchid of my last blog, Ophrys sitiaca, there is no problem at all to indentify this Orchid because there is (as far as I know) only one Dactylorhiza around on Lesvos: Dactylorhiza romana.

16 mrt 12 040

Dactylorhiza romana, Palios. © JvL 16-03-2012 #040

RESEARCH: Thank goodness I have to say, (or deadly boring is also possibly) because the genus Dactylorhiza has in Europe 70 species, subspecies and variations according to BAUMANN/KÜNKELE/LORENZ (2006), but 236 species, subspecies and variations according to DELFORGE (2005). And between 2005 and 2010 a German orchidologist came with a list of 16 new discovered or newly described Dactylorhiza species. On Lesvos the only confusion could be in the naming because in 1980 SUNDERMANN used the name Dactylorhiza sambucina subsp. pseudosambucina Tenore 1815. And that could cause confusion with Dactylorhiza sambucina (L.) Soó 1755, but this species with the big leaves and the downwards pointing spur I didn’t encounter yet on Lesvos. (Even the Black Elder tree (Sambucus nigra) is not around on Lesvos, a pity, no Sambuca liquer, no marmalade, no wine or syrups from this tree.)

COMBI 1 D.romana,

1-03-2010 #127, two D. romana, Palios. 16-03-2012 #054 same spot, only one’

So the only confusion that could remain is maybe its colour because Dactylorhiza romana is a plant with a lot of colours. Those colours are everything between white/yellow and red. These colour variations have (of course) also a name: for instance ‘sulphurea’ sulphur = greenish yellow; ‘incarnata’, flesh coloured and ‘bicolor’, two colours. What I missed in this list is ‘albiflora’ white blooming for the pure white species. I remembered having photographed a white and a bicolour version on a spot called Sarakina, a few hundred meters down the track to Palios and a hundred meters into the pine forest, two years ago. Then, two beautiful big Dactylorhiza romana were presenting themselves behind a fallen branch. And yes, one of them was today also present, not so big as last year, then 30 cm high, now a small 20 cm. But okay, it was there, but a bit lonely as I must say.

16 mrt 12 104

Dactylorhiza romana, Palios. © JvL 16-03-2012 #104

On the other side of the sea, in Turkey, just a few kilometres away, there are at least 12 species of Dactylorhiza growing (KREUTZ 1998). Oddly enough there are not many or even no Dactylorhiza left on Rhodes and Karpathos, but Crete still has them (KRETZSCHMAR 2004). The Roman Cuckoo Flower grows in abundance on Cyprus, but only the yellow variation (KREUTZ 2002). SALIARIS and DELFORGE discovered in 2007 (Natural. belges 88, Orchid. 20) that Dactylorhiza romana was present on Psara (the island on the north-west side of Chios) and/or Inousses (the island on the north-east coast, between Chios and Turkey) but absent on Chios itself KARATZAS (2008) produced on Lesvos 7 habitats for Dactylorhiza romana and a ‘White Roman’ (albiflora) variation in the south hills on the Gulf of Gera.

BOTTOM-LINE: I think that splitting up Dactylorhiza romana into varieties according to their ‘true colours’ is not opportune because all those colour variations are actually a characteristic of the Roman ‘Cuckoo’ Orchids; red, pink, yellow and white or two colours in the same flower: ‘bicolor’. So the ‘Romans’ are still on Lesvos, not only around Palios but for instance also above Mixou (Mychos) in the south of the island, above Klapados (Lafionas) in the north and high on the Prof. Ilias above Parakila in the west.

Jan van Lent, Lesvos, 20-03-2012.

Cyndi Lauper: ‘True colours’ live in Paris 1987:
r: www.youtube.com/watch?v=juiCRd5XllA

2. Boxing lessons. Ophrys sitiaca: ‘Bang, Bang’.

Habitat: Alifantá.

3 mrt 12 059

Ophrys sitiaca or Ophrys leucadica? Alifantá, 3-03-2012 #059.

Ophrys sitiaca H.F.Paulus, Ch. Alibertis & A. Alibertis 1988. Pseudophrys. The Ophrys (fusca) omegaifera group: on Lesvos for the time being only Ophrys sitiaca.

Ophrys leucadica Renz, 1928. Pseudophrys. The Ophrys fusca group: on Lesvos for the time being Ophrys calocaerina, Ophrys cinereophila and Ophrys leucadica.

REMARKS: The Ophrys fusca-lutea complex (= section pseudophrys) and the Ophrys oestrifera complex (section euophrys), are the two most difficult complexes of Orchids on Lesvos to distinguish. And I think not only on Lesvos… Before I write about the first flowering Ophrys of this fusca-lutea complex on Lesvos, Ophrys sitiaca above Alifantá, I first will make some remarks about this complex which has been driving me crazy for years now. And it is not only those Ophrys which are giving me headaches but also the constant changing of names and opinions about this complex. Let’s start 5 years ago, in 2007. I then started photographing the different species within the (at that time named) Ophrys fusca group. Today this group is called the Ophrys leucadica group after the ancestor Ophrys leucadica. In between there was a period of time that most orchidologists called this group of plants Ophrys fusca s.l.. (Sensu lato: ‘in the wide or broad sense of’). After Ophrys fusca was said to be a West-Mediterranean plant, you can call all those plants now of course Ophrys leucadica s.l. but that did not satisfy me. There are so many different forms inside this group that for instance DELFORGE (2005) decided to differentiate this whole pseudophrys (fusca-lutea) complex into 12 groups for Europe and ANTONOPOULOS (2009) made 6 groups for Greece: The iricolor group, the fusca group, the attaviria group, the blitopertha group, the lutea group and the omegaifera group. Okay, clear enough for me to determine those Ophrys here on Lesvos, I thought.

x2) BEW4 3x PSEUDOPHRYS copy, 72dpi (fusca-lutea group)

Omegaifera group (Ophrys sitiaca, 18-02-11); lutea group (Ophrys sicula, 26-02-12); fusca group (Ophrys leucadica, 27-03-10).

x3) BEW4 3-6 PSEUDOPHRYS (fusca group) copy, 72dpi

 Attaviria group (Ophrys attaviria, 27-03-10);  iricolor group (Ophrys iricolor, 5-04-09); blitopertha group (Ophrys blitopertha, 16-04-11).

But in these last 5 years I did not encounter a species of the omegaifera group on Lesvos except of course for Ophrys sitiaca, the earliest flowering species that also has (in most habitats on Lesvos) some of the characteristics of the other groups. And here the problems start because this Ophrys has the typical shallow V-shaped groove at the base of the lip whereas the other members of this omegaifera group have no V-shaped groove at all. Why then place this species in this group? And didn’t I hear rumors during the last months that there is actually no Ophrys sitiaca and no Ophrys leucadica on the island but that they are misidentified Ophrys pelinaea? “Tuf, tuf, tuf”, we say on Lesvos, maybe the same expression as “you must be joking” in English. Wasn’t Ophrys pelinaea said to flower late, in April and May? And didn’t have Ophrys pelinaea a large flower with a lip length between 13 and 20mm? And where can I find the ‘large, round middle lobe’ of pelinaea on ‘my’ sitiaca? Well, the sitiaca below are round in the sense that the lip folds down on the long axis, like a very tiny boxing glove and the side lobes are folded down under the lip. But there are more species in the fusca-lutea group whose lip look like a boxing glove. As for instance Ophrys leucadica and Ophrys cinereophila.

Ophrys sitiaca's Alifanta

Above: Ophrys sitiaca, Alifantá, on 18-02-2011 (#041) and 3-03-2011 (#059 & #115).

In my opinion a lot of problems with identification in this ‘early’ fusca-lutea complex have to do with this species (Ophrys sitiaca) in hybridisation with members of the other groups, depending on the habitat (circumstances), the surrounding Ophrys and the pollinator. But there is one more reason for confusion: the time of flowering. Living on Lesvos for the last 10 years (also in the wintertime) I observed that there is, every year, a dramatic difference in flowering time due to weather conditions. The difference in flowering times (of the same orchid on the same habitat) between one year and another can be more than 5 weeks!

x5) BEW4 3 Ophrys sitiaca-leucadica, copy, 72dpi op4, Alifantá

Ophrys sitiaca or leucadica? Alifanta, 3-03-2012 (#025 & #047), 22-03-2011 (#097).

BOTTOM LINE: Back to the two Ophrys I photographed above Alifantá a few days ago. If you compare those species with the ones from last year on exactly the same habitat and spot) you see that their lips are not so much folded down. They look more like Ophrys leucadica on the same spot last year, 3 weeks later, on 22-03-2011. Again I got confused, so I went back a few days later, after 2 days of rain. To my enjoyment they had now 3 flowers but I’ve noticed that their lips were more down folded than 3 days ago; so they looked more like Ophrys sitiaca this time! I think it’s time to take some boxing lessons! Maybe that I can recognize them better after a good ‘bang, bang’ against my head…

Jan van Lent, Lesvos, 2012

Nancy Sinatra: ‘Bang Bang’ (1967)

6 mrt12 029 Ophrys sitiaca, Alifanta 20x30cm, copy 72dpi

Ophrys sitiaca x leucadica? Alifantá, 6-03-2012 #029

1. ‘yellow!’ Ophrys sicula

Habitat: Eftalou.

y5) 26 febr 12 049 BEW4 26x10cm, copy 72dpi, Ophrys sicula, Eftalou

The first of 2012: 26-02-2012 #049 phrygana Eftalou, Ophrys phryganae? No, sicula!

Ophrys (lutea subsp) sicula Tineo 1846.
Ophrys lutea subsp. minor (Todaro) O. & E. Danesch.
The Ophrys (fusca -) lutea group. On Lesvos: Ophrys sicula & Ophrys phryganae.

Ophrys sicula, Eftalou, © Jan van Lent 26-2-2012 #049

Ophrys sicula, Eftalou, © JvL 26-02-2012 #047

Every year in February or March the first wild orchids arrive in the phrygana or in the abandoned Olive groves in Eftalou. Eftalou is situated a little bit to the east of the medieval village of Molivos, in the North of Lesvos. Here I live and work. Every year it is a surprise which orchid will arrive first, Ophrys sicula, Ophrys mammosa or Ophrys speculum (or synonym: Ophrys vernixia var. orientalis) and when: in the middle or end of February or in the beginning of March. This depends on the quantity of rain and sun in January and February. Actually there can be three weeks difference from one year to another. When they arrive in mid February it will be an ‘early’ year, when they arrive in March it will be a ‘late’ year. But today it is nearly the end of February and it feels already like spring. Everywhere you look now there are anemones in white, rose, red, purple and blue and red. But I am looking for orchids, not anemones. And I know of course where to look, this is my ‘home’ land; I walk here every day and every year eight to ten different orchids species occur. The rosettes are already getting small stems so it is now just a question of days before they will arrive.

Ophrys sicula, Eftalou, © Jan van Lent 26-2-2012 #049

Ophrys sicula, Eftalou, © JvL 13-03-2010 #026

Two years ago an Ophrys sicula next to an old almond tree, which had once been hit by lightning, won the race but not this year, because on this habitat they’re getting smaller and smaller every year. Last year the first sicula arrived a few weeks later, in the shelter of some old Funereal or Italian Cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens). I’ve noticed for weeks now on the west end of the fields, in between hundreds of not yet flowering bushes Spanish Broom (Spartium junceum), a lot of very big rosettes of, I think, Ophrys sicula. And yes, today the first sicula is there! Only one, and not the one with the biggest rosette but one alongside a small path I cut through the Spanish Broom to reach some new habitats where I maybe could find new orchid species. Those fields here have not been ‘done’ the last 20 or more years. So I have to slam, chop, cut and saw myself a way through not only the Spanish, but also through the very Thorny Wooly Broom (Calycotome villosa), the Shaggy Cistus (Cistus creticus), prickly, wild olive trees, and the new growing, young pines; it’s really a wall there which you have to get through. But, there it is, the first orchid of 2012!

And this is an Ophrys sicula and not an Ophrys phrygana. With those big yellow borders of the lip, the almost horizontal standing flower (because the lip is NOT folded at the base), the tuft of hairs on the lip, the small upside down V on the tip of the lip and the metallic or blue shining blazon. I am sure, this is Ophrys sicula!

2 flowers of same Ophrys sicula © Jan van Lent 1-3-2009 #002 & 003

Ophrys sicula, same plant. © JvL 1-03-2009 #002 & 003.

RESEARCH. But to be sure, and perhaps for some new knowledge I went again through my Orchid books. I started ‘in the old days’ with SUNDERMANN (1980), ‘Europäische und mediterrane Orchideen’. In those days (without groups and complexes) Ophrys lutea had 2 subspecies: Ophrys lutea ssp. lutea CAVANILLES 1753 (big lip,15-20mm long), Ophrys lutea ssp. murbeckii (H. FLEISCHMANN) SOÓ 1927 (smaller lip, +-10mm, small, yellow sides), and two variations: var. melena RENZ 1928 p.ssp.) NELSON 1962 (almost brown) and var. flavescens (completely yellow). Sundermann’s photograph of Ophrys lutea ssp. murbeckii from Turkey (on p. 90) is in my opinion Ophrys (lutea subsp.) sicula from today.

Ophrys sicula, Eftalou, © Jan van Lent

First Ophrys sicula 2010 & 2011: 11-02-2010 #020 and 4-03-2011 #178

BOTTOM-LINE: It is all about names. On Lesvos (in the Eastern Mediterranean) there are two different species of the lutea group. The one species almost the same as Ophrys lutea but a lot smaller and with less yellow on the lip is Ophrys phryganae, blooming between the end of March/beginning of April until the end of April. The only other ‘yellow’ species which is flowering on Lesvos is Ophrys sicula, the former Ophrys lutea ssp. minor, galilaea, murbeckii, which blooms from the middle of February until the middle of May. And Ophrys sicula is abundant on Lesvos, Ophrys phryganae is more rare; until now I found it only on a few locations (Alifantá, Mixou, Mt. Spathi) in April.

Jan van Lent, Lesvos, 6-03-2012
Update: 18-08-2014

YELLOW:  Coldplay live in Sydney 2003.