The earliest flowering plants which have been in flower at least since mid-December and are in flower right now are characterised by rather small flowers and have been attributed to Ophrys mesaritica. This to me looks somewhat strange since O.mesaritica has otherwise only been recorded from Crete. It is easy to understand the presence of Sicilian-Maltese endemisms, but for a species to be endemic to Crete and the Maltese Islands? I wonder.
Do not think that I am some sort of Orchid expert! However orchids are by far my favorite plants and I therefore tend to read and research much more about them than about other plants!
Your approach is probably the best by far. I have been looking into this for a while, but the more you research, the more confused things become!
I think that a few authors seem to be particularly keen at creating species and subspecies out of variable plants at the least opportunity. This seems to be a trend in "popular" plants. (The same has happened with cacti where the trend is now that of reversing some over enthusiastic splitting that has created innumerable synonyms)
In fact a couple of days ago decided to look in more detail at a particular population of the O.fusca-iricolor aggregate at Dingli.
While the only plants that according to the literature should be in flower at this time are those attributed to O.mesaritica (with the smallest flowers of those of this complex reported from Malta), I also found a few plants whose flower measurements would place them well within the largest flowered plants of the group (O. fusca ) which according to the literature should appear in Malta in March! There is also great variation in labellum shape, colour and markings.
According to the Kew Index the plants recorded for Malta are all synonyms of either O.fusca subsp. fusca or O. iricolor subsp. iricolor. On the other hand the people at Kew may be too conservative, since even our beloved Anacamptis urvilleana is simply considered as a synonym of A. pyramidalis !
I am currentely working on O. fusca and I have noted that from many of the flowers I have potographed, they can be seperated into 2 sets.
a) Flower mostly brown and blue. The central W-shaped blue part may have some dark blue markings
b) Flower brown and blue . The central W-shaped blue part has red markings.
See attached photo where group (a) are above.
1 million dollar question: Could it be that set a = fusca and b = iricolor???
As jackpot say I would prefer (also for reasons of having less work in my site!) to believe there is one O. fusca without complex nomenclatures, which might be; as both you said and that I agree; new names from some enthusiastic botanist who would seperate species to different subsp vars or even spp mostly according to the variation of the flower colour.
Comments about this are welcomed
PS Top left pic taken in Spring 05
- 4 photos of flowers taken from 4 different Ophrys fusca species in Dingli Cliffs
- Ophrys_fusca4.jpg (140.09 KiB) Viewed 383162 times
Again maybe given bad names, but Mr. Thomas Schoepke is an established nature photographer and would name his photos right.
This link is also interesting but the image is smallish. Here the iricolor has the larger labellum and has a rather plain speculum (blue shade) while the fusca is smaller and a more decorated labellum. The lutea has a very pale blue speculum.
There is also intermediates so could be we have both fusca, iricolor and sveral range of intermediates (=hybrids I assume)
Recent literature indicates at least 5 species pertaining to the Maltese islands with major European orchid internet sites giving at least 3 other names.
The species within this aggregate are distinguished through various features apart from colour and pattern - flowering time, length of labellum, shape of labellum, pilosity of labellum, angle of the labellum, and very importantly the pollinating bee.
However they superficially all look rather similar. I think that a review of the literature and botanical descriptions & intensive field study would be needed to familiarize oneself with the group before one can draw any conclusions, although my gut feeling is that there are too many names.
In my opinion, at this stage it is far better and wiser for us non-botanists to refer to all locally occurring plants as Ophrys fusca s.l. (sensu lato i.e. in the broad sense), while referring to the fact that various authorities consider O. fusca s.l. as referring to a number of distinct species.
After all classification is a human construct, and different authorities tend to have different species concepts and species limits.
This weekend I plan to make some interesting chart with some 9 photos of O. fusca flowers as found in Malta that look quite different from each other for research by other interested entities
If you have more literature about O. fusca that you (or anyone) want to share I would be very glad since I am constructing my next plant profile and would add the interesting details in. Credits given of course.
- Chart of 12 flowers of O. fusca showing the range of variation it offers.
- OPHFU-FlowerChart.jpg (130.75 KiB) Viewed 383126 times
Let us not complicate the scientific life of the flora, more than it is.
Wait for the profile on my site - it is getting interesting!
According to the most recent (2001) and reliable (authors are two Italian botanists + Edwin Lanfranco & Darrin Stevens- hence reliable) literature that I have consulted (there may be more recent work about which I am not yet aware of) the O.fusca group is Malta is represented by at least 5 taxa.
These are O.fusca, O.caesiella, O.parosica, O.pectus (all of these are considered as synonyms of O.fusca subsp. fusca in the Kew monocot names checklist) and O.mesaritica (this is considered by Kew checklist as a synonym of O. iricolor subsp. iricolor. Note here that some authors consider O. iricolor itself as a subspecies of O. fusca)
In a European orchid website I have also found photos labelled as O.vallesiana and O.eleonorae (both are again regarded by Kew as synonyms of O. iricolor) taken in Malta. Another website lists Malta among the areas where O.lucifera is found (again this is O.fusca according to Kew) I have not seen any literature about these species occuring in Malta, and therefore I have no idea of how reliable or not this info is.
Another interesting point about O.fusca is its pollination. The male pollinating bee does not enter the plant head first but goes in the other way round i.e. abdomen first, in an attempt at copulating with the plant! This abdominal pollination by pseudocopulation is a characteristic of O.fusca and O.lutea only. In fact these two species (or species complexes) are sometimes collectively referred to as the Pseudophrys group. O.lutea is also found in the Maltese islands where it is rather rare - I have never seen it myself.
Isn’t it far better to just stick with O.fusca
First let make it clear, the plant will be regarded as Ophrys fusca s.l. in the site. However I want to give info about these new 'research' in the additional information section.
As far as I understood, all maltese species are of the Ophrys iricolor or Ophrys fusca group, so called O. fusca-iricolor complex group. Do you agree upon this?
Another example - those of Sicilly seem to make part of the O. lutea-fusca complex group.
Iricolor group have 5 species and fusca 11. From these 16, about 4 or 5 are reported to be found in Malta with large speculation about mesaritica, I too dont think we have it due to the reason as you well said that distriburion Malta-Crete does not make sense.
By comparing my maltese pics, with the reference pics of Ophrys species, I agree a bit with their species names that they say are found in Malta.
I also think we have another one - O. lupercalis (C2, D1 in the chart) and maybe that O. mirabillis with no notched labellum (B3). O. eleonorae possible B1-B3, C1. O. caesiella definetely C3.
Iricolor D3 and maybe A2, A3. This is again according to my comparison and reports that these are the ones reported in Malta (that is I confirm from the pics I have). Finally O. fusca, the large labellum and late blossomer is confirmed in Malta and probably not in the chart.
O. vallesiana is an endemic to tunisia so I dont dare to say it is here too (Tunisians might get hurt by the news!)
Last Question. What are the species name(s) of the bee (s)that pseudocopulate with our Ophrys fusca in Malta??? Any idea. Would be intersting info for the site.
O.parosica and O.pectus (whatever they look like - all the species we are discussing look more or less the same to me) ARE members of the O. fusca group. This can be checked by searching for the names in the Kew monocot checklist at the following address
As regards O.vallesiana and O.eleonorae, I have mentioned them just because I found them on a particular website as being listed under Maltese orchids. I do not know about any literature that confirms their presence.
The 2001 paper I have mentioned in my previous post (by 4 botanists – G.Bartolo, S.Pulvirenti, E.lanfranco, D .Stevens) specifically give O.fusca, O.caesiella, O.parosica, O.pectus and O.mesaritica as the orchids of the O. fusca group found in the Maltese Islands (also indicating the presence of other late flowering populations that may require further study). Until I become aware of more recent literature (if available), for me the O.fusca complex in Malta is represented by the above 5 species, although I personally still treat them as one species complex.
Personally I would not suggest the presence of other species within the group, giving the range of variation that one can observe in even a small population of these orchids.
As regards Ophrys lutea, it is represented in Malta by two rare subspecies O.lutea subsp. minor and O.lutea subsp. lutea. I have not encountered these but illustrations indicate that they are very different from the species within the O.fusca aggregate. From what I have understood, it seems that in Sicily there are a number of species with characteristics of both, leading to the so called O.fusca-lutea complex
The pollinators of O.fusca in Europe and Africa are known to be solitary bees of the genus Andrena (mining bees). This genus does occur in Malta.
In the site I was using, pectus was not in the fusca group !!O.parosica and O.pectus (whatever they look like - all the species we are discussing look more or less the same to me) ARE members of the O. fusca group. This can be checked by searching for the names in the Kew monocot checklist at the following address
http://www.pharmanatur.com/orchidees_gr ... ophrys.htm
Maybe (and what I think) is that O. pectus = O. lupercalis
I agree with 4 species but I find O. parosica a bit strange. It is not in the iricolor or fusca group but ine the A4 Attaviria group. http://www.ophrys.be/a4.htmspecifically give O.fusca, O.caesiella, O.parosica, O.pectus and O.mesaritica as the orchids of the O. fusca group found in the Maltese Islands
Maybe further revision should be made so as to be considered as a species on its own (not in the fusca group)
I would definitely add O.eleanore (as reported by other botanists) since most of the photos are identical to some of my photos. On the other hand, many labella of different 'species' look the same!
http://www.pharmanatur.com/Malte/Orchid ... 0Malte.htm
So for the Maltese group, we can say that there is the fusca-/iricolor- group?From what I have understood, it seems that in Sicily there are a number of species with characteristics of both, leading to the so called O.fusca-lutea complex
Can you give me the full citation for referencing the paper in the profile please?The 2001 paper I have mentioned in my previous post (by 4 botanists – G.Bartolo, S.Pulvirenti, E.lanfranco, D .Stevens)
Yes, I agree with you that the labellum of different species do look the same in some photos. On the other hand the labella of different plants of the same species can look very different - soooo confusing
The paper I have referred to is:
Bartolo G., Lanfranco E., Pulvirenti G. & Stevens D. T., 2001 – Le Orchidee dell’arcipelago maltese (Mediterraneo centrale). Jour. Eur. Orchids 33(3): 743870.
The first version will be out late this night, and then it will be revised tomorrow for new info and corrections. If you wish to add more info, just email me or write it here.
Keep an eye on the main index page of the site
There are various natural hybrids or natural varieties of Ophrys fusca and some young authors / botanists / enthusiast researchers would prefer to spend their time splitting these orchids to their own species names to get a bit of name-fame*
Its like some god trying to split the human species. There are African, European, Indian, Latin and Asian (=sub-species), and then they try to create new names for offspring between mixtures, and their offspring and their offpsring....... according morphological and habitual features. At the end it is confusion and you cannot split a line to say what species is this blond, dark-skinned, asian eyed, (etc etc..)?..... no answer?... Ok no problem, lets give it a new species name!
This is what is happening in the Ophrys world in my honest opinion.
But if these things have been accepted by International Botanay, I have to report them in my detailed website, even if I dont like it
and since I want to have a professional website it is of my duty to write as much info as possible about a plant, so here I am stuggling for these Ophrys fusca names.
Hope you liked my explanation and wonder if you agree folks
Sorry to be the main source of this naming confusion (together with MWP administrator) I assure you all that I have nothing to do at all with all these names and for me good, old, plain Ophrys fusca is more than fine, but since I had this info I thought that MWP administrator could find it useful for the technical data for his profile.
And by the way, jackpot, this Ophrys is NOT terrible, even though many plants are admittedly more good looking
Don't worry robcar! Thanks for the new information you provided, we were just sort of joking
Ophrys is a rather complicated genus - we still have to understand if our endemic species is really a species or a subspecies.... Besides, there are many other species in our islands.
Anymore information would be appreciated.
The very early flowering time, January, and the size of the flowers indicated this Ophrys to be O. mesaritica. This is the only Ophrys of this group known, at least for the time being, to grow on Malta. The plant is described from Crete, and I agree that Crete and Malta is quite a strange distribution area for an Ophrys, but two other species of the group, O. vallesiana from North Africa and O. eleonorae from Sardinia are not known for sure to grow on Malta. O. eleonorae also flowers later, in April in Sardinia.
In the attachment, you'll see a slide made in the Messara plain, Crete, on February 11, 2002, just to be able to compare.
Best to everybody, James
- mesa3.jpg (29.1 KiB) Viewed 382533 times
Colours and marks of the labellum are not as important as other characteristics (e.g. protuberances). However, we have in Germany about 70 species of orchids, for people who do not care about colours and marks of the labellum. For people who do, we have about 500 species in an area of about 10x10 km in the Alps !
You know what I mean .
Eg: O. iricolor have those ridges, O.fusca have an lip edge to main axis angle of about 40 Degrees, O. lutea have it 60 degrees and a yellow border, etc etc.
I think the question is where to draw the line!
On the other hand I also agree with MWP administrator that structural features that show clear discontinuities between populations could be suitable characters for diagnosing species.
Therefore I think it could be justified to use the presence of ridges at the base of the labellum as a feature for limiting species since such features are either present or absent, and should be present within all individuals within the populations that make up the species.
Explanation of the ridges in the link below:
Basically, they are those elavated edges of the labellum near the mouth of the flower.