Few others (like me) follow Delforge system of splitting them and in Malta 5 species have been reported. I was wondering if this is one of those 5!
(+ O. eleonorae ?) (no red coloration at the underside)
This specimen got my attention because:
1) the habitat was not a garigue in full sun, but under Cypress sempervirens at Buskett. (Buskett Road House area).
2) Was standing alone
3) Too late in time for O. fusca proper. It had the 5th flower in bloom, showing that it was flowering for 2-3 weeks.
4) Too tall for O. cf. mesaritica (Early flowering Brown Orchid / Mesara Orchid) and labellum was 16mm long.
Your comments appreciated!
- Close up of flower. Underside not red.
- IMG_9862.JPG (126.71 KiB) Viewed 27446 times
- Ophrys fusca s.l. 25cm tall...
- IMG_9863.JPG (422.29 KiB) Viewed 27446 times
3) should be too early for O. fusca proper since this is known to flower in March. But maybe the warm Winter casued it to wake up.
I think that "too tall" could also be due this specimen had lush of soil compared to garigue.
According to splitters early flowering plants should be O. mesaritica and should therefore be short and have a short labellum - however the plants do not seem to care too much about this distinction - characters which are not consistent and overlap between so called species should not be used to define the species - such observations only strengthen my conviction that it is one variable species - but as you well know MWP I belong that group you have mentioned in the first sentence of your post.
little variations I suppose are normal, I would imagine that even the habitat would cause mini-evolutions in a short time frame in something with a relatively short lifespan and thus plenty of generations like a plant.
Robcar, I prefer the simple idea of lumping, but it seems that at least in Orchids, the trend is towards splitting to a certain degree. I try to be accurate and updated as much as possible on the site since it is seen by a lot of people and sometimes not only by amateurs!
For example, I already have a 'flop' in Sisymbrium officinale, since a botanist from Wales have written me an email recently saying that many of the photos are actually of Hirschfeldia incana !!! The difference between the two is minimal (veins and beak of the pod), but still they are 2 different species.
The bad thing for us is that we do not have enough literature, and you must at least start with having Tutin's flora europaea ($$$). Worse, is when authorities do not agree and one names this abc and the other xyz - happens in Orchids!!
Yes in orchids the present tendency seems to be towards splitting -it is nice for many people who can incorporate their name (or that of their wife or cat) to a newly published 'species' - in case of plants which are important for trade (e.g. orchids and cacti), many names result in longer plant/seed lists = higher sales etc.
In fact splitting seems to be much more evident in groups such as orchids and cacti where a lot of work has been undertaken by dedicated (and often very knowledgable) amateurs rather than by trained botanists or taxonomists.
However at the end it all boils down to the fact that what constitutes a species is very subjective - there are no clear, rigid rules or guidelines as to what level of difference constitutes a species - so as long as the characteristics used for classification are consistent there is no right or wrong - differences which may be enough to justify a new species for a highly competent botanists (who we may label a splitter) may be considered as variation within a species by an equally competent botanist (who we tend to call a lumper)
While DNA analysis is still not going to resolve all problems, it will probably help clarify various issues in the future when correlated with distribution data and morphological characteristics.
In my opinion using the term 'species complex' or s.l in such ambiguous cases is the best compromise until further study gives us more reliable information.