Tuesday, April 7, 2015

the deceiving Mirror Orchid.

Ophrys speculum is a very beautiful and very rare flower which is hard to spot but worth looking for. It is also called Ophrys ciliata (BIVONA-BERNARDI, 1806.)

Lateral sepals bear brown reddish streaks and petals are brown, short and winded onto themselves backward. The lip is characteristic with a shiny blue mirror surrounded by a yellow margin and bordered with long brown reddish hairs. 

The unusual shape and colours are a successful attempt by this orchid to fool the male of a species of scoliid wasp into mistaking it for a female. Both the insect and orchid have brown hairs while the mauve spot looks like the sky being reflected on the wasp’s wing.

The flower also produces a chemical similar to pheromone that is produced by the female wasp. The deception is so complete that the male scoliid wasp lands excitedly on to the flower and attempts to mate with it.

Mimicking female insects is a strategy used by insect orchids to attract male insects. In most species, the insects mimicked are bees and wasps. 

Blooming from March to May. The mirror orchid is found across the Mediterranean region, from Portugal to Lebanon but is absent from Cyprus and northern Italy. On the other hand, it is protected on the whole Spanish territory.

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