The main purpose on this site is to present an iconography of the orchid genus OPHRYS Linné 1753 (Orchidaceae, Serapiadinae).

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 Mediterranean countries.
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 100 species.
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 215.

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 Ophrys species.

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.