Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ophrys eptapigiensis, the phantom orchid

Ophrys eptapigiensis 14-04-2007, Apollona - Laerma road.


Back in 2001 Prof. Paulus described Ophrys eptapigiensis, as a new pseudophrys species of orchid from Rhodes. He named the new orchid “eptapigiensis” because he spotted it for first time at the area of Epta Piges, in the shady pine woods of Loutanis river valley.

Prof. Paulus himself found only a few plants in a very small area. Since then, many experts have visited Rhodes and according to my knowledge, no one was able to spot more than a few plants. Some orchidophiles who visited the island have reported erroneously that they have spotted some biotopes with populations of 10 or 20 plants but I have visited nearly all reported areas and I wasn’t able to spot these populations. In fact, I’m still not 100% sure if I have ever seen a single typical plant of that species. These facts indicate that Ophrys eptapigiensis is a very rare species, the rarest of all Rhodian orchids.

According to Prof. Paulus paper, Ophrys eptapigiensis is very similar to Ophrys attaviria which (the latter) flowers a little bit later, has bigger flowers and its lip has a lighter color. Additionally O. eptapigiensis has brown petals, and sometimes, a transverse brown ribbon inside the stigmatic cavity.

Yet, many experts doubt about the existence of the new species based on the fact that Prof. Paulus hasn’t discovered yet the pollinator of O. eptapigiensis, as he usually does with the other new species that he has described.

The rarity of the plant, the similarity with O. attaviria and the lack of knowledge about its pollinator, makes O. eptapigiensis somehow a phantom orchid.

Here I present a photograph which I believe represents a (sort of) typical O. eptapigiensis. It was among typical O. attaviria plants which means that it could be just a form of O. attaviria. Anyway, plants with such typical characteristics are extremely rare and I feel lucky having it in my collection. Enjoy it!

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