Ophrys apifera

Ophrys apifera, known in Europe as the bee orchid, is a perennial herbaceous plant belonging to the family Orchidaceae. It is remarkable as an example of sexually-deceptive pollination and floral mimicry as well as of a highly-selective and highly evolved plant-pollinator relationship.[2]

Ophrys apifera
Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) (14374841786) - cropped
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Orchidoideae
Genus: Ophrys
O. apifera
Binomial name
Ophrys apifera
  • Orchis apifera (Huds.) Salisb.
  • Arachnites apifera (Huds.) Hoffm.
  • Ophrys chlorantha Hegetschw. & Heer
  • Ophrys insectifera var. andrachnites


Ophrys apifera grows to a height of 15–50 centimetres (6–20 in). This hardy orchid develops small rosettes of leaves in autumn. They continue to grow slowly during winter. Basal leaves are ovate or oblong-lanceolate, upper leaves and bracts are ovate-lanceolate and sheathing. The plant blooms from mid-April in continental Europe, but in the United Kingdom it flowers June to July. A flower spike is produced, composed from one to twelve flowers. The flowers have large sepals, with a central green rib and colour varying from white to pink, while petals are short, pubescent, yellow to greenish. The labellum is trilobed, with two pronounced humps on the hairy lateral lobes, the median lobe is hairy and similar to the abdomen of a bee. The labellum is remarkable for displaying at least four distinct colours, in addition to the two colours of the sepals and petals. Pattern of labellum colouration is quite variable. The gynostegium is at right angles, with an elongated apex.[3] Chromosomes 2n=36[4]


Ophrys apifera is widespread across central and southern Europe, as well as North Africa and the Middle East. Its range stretches from Portugal, Ireland and Denmark east to Iran and the Caucasus. It is quite common in the Mediterranean region eastwards to the Black Sea,[5] (Codes) [6] but is less common in its northern range being uncommon or local in Germany and Ireland.

In the UK, it has a distinct southeastern preference, being more common in England. Recently it has been found in the southwest of England in Butleigh near Glastonbury in Somerset; whereas it is only to be found in coastal regions of Wales as well as the Hodbarrow Nature Reserve in Millom, Cumbria,[7] and some parts of Northern Ireland. It is relatively common in the northeast of England and in recent years large numbers have appeared in the grass verges surrounding the Metro Centre in Gateshead.[8] In Scotland, it was thought to be extinct, but was rediscovered in Ayrshire in 2003. In some countries the plants have protected status. They are unusual in that in some years they appear in great numbers, then sometimes only reappear after an absence of many years.

Habitat and ecology

Ophrys apifera generally grows on semi-dry turf, in grassland, on limestone, calcareous dunes or in open areas in woodland. It prefers calcareous soils, in bright light or dim light. It is a major colonizer of sites disturbed by human activity, such as old quarries, roadside verges and airfields.[3][9] O. apifera is one of the most likely European orchid species to establish itself within towns and cities.

Ophrys apifera relies upon a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi in the genus Tulasnella, to extract sufficient nutrient from the soil it grows in.[10] This makes it vulnerable to chemicals, particularly fungicides, but also other chemical applications which could reduce the prevalence of Tulasnella fungi.


Ophrys apifera is the only species of the genus Ophrys which preferentially practices self-pollination.[11][12] The flowers are almost exclusively self-pollinating in the northern ranges of the plant's distribution, but pollination by the solitary bee Eucera longicornis occurs in the Mediterranean area. In this case the plant attracts these insects by producing a scent that mimics the scent of the female bee. In addition, the lip acts as a decoy as the male bee confuses it with a female. Pollen transfer occurs during the ensuing pseudocopulation.[13]

The flowers emit allomones that attract the bee species Tetralonia cressa and Eucera pulveraceae. Eucera longicornis males have been observed attempting to copulate with the flowers.[14] It is also believed that male bees would preferentially select orchids with the most bee-like lips and attempt to mate with them, transferring pollen in the process.[15]


Ophrys apifera is the County flower of Bedfordshire.[16]


The name Ophrys derives from the Greek word ophrys, meaning "eyebrow", while the Latin specific epithet apifera means "bee-bearing" or "bee-bringing"[17] and refers to the bee-shaped lip of the orchid.

The genus Ophrys is the most species-rich (i.e. diverse) genus of orchids in Europe and the Mediterranean with over 200 species, according to 'Orchids of Britain and Europe' by Pierre Delforge.


  • Ophrys apifera var. apifera
  • Ophrys apifera var. bicolor
  • Ophrys apifera var. botteronii
  • Ophrys apifera var. friburgensis
  • Ophrys apifera var. immaculata
  • Ophrys apifera var. trollii
Ophrys apifera flower1
Ophrys apifera var. aurita
Ophrys apifera var. bicolor Saarland 004
Ophrys apifera var. bicolor
Ophrys apifera var botteronii Saarland 01
Ophrys apifera var. botteronii
Ophrys apifera var. trollii Frankreich 29
Ophrys apifera var. trollii


Floral parts display the presence of quercetin and kaempferol glycosides, which are supposed to be acylated, as well as cinnamic acid derivatives. The pink outer tepals show the presence of anthocyanins.[18][19]


  1. ^ Fabio Conti; Fabrizio Bartolucci (2015). The Vascular Flora of the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise (Central Italy): An Annotated Checklist Geobotany Studies (illustrated ed.). Springer. p. 124. ISBN 9783319097015.
  2. ^ Royal Society - Pre-adaptations and the evolution of pollination by sexual deception: Cope’s rule of specialization revisited
  3. ^ a b I. F. La Croix (2008). The New Encyclopedia of Orchids: 1500 Species in Cultivation (illustrated ed.). Timber Press. p. 320. ISBN 9780881928761.
  4. ^ Biodiversity Research and Conservation - Ophrys apifera Huds. (Orchidaceae), a new orchid species to the flora of Poland
  5. ^ "World Checklist of Selected Plant Families".
  6. ^ "World Checklist of Selected Plant Families TDWG Geocodes" (PDF).
  7. ^ "The RSPB: Hodbarrow". The RSPB.
  8. ^ Tony Henderson (21 June 2008). "Orchid colony discovered in grass verge". journallive. Archived from the original on 21 April 2013.
  9. ^ Hein van Bohemen, ed. (2005). Ecological Engineering: Bridging Between Ecology and Civil Engineering. Uitgeverij Æneas BV. p. 224. ISBN 9789075365719.
  10. ^ American Journal of Botany - C and N stable isotope signatures reveal constraints to nutritional modes in orchids from the Mediterranean and Macaronesia
  11. ^ Charles Darwin (2004). Frederick Burkhardt; Duncan M. Porter; Sheila Ann Dean; Shelley Innes; Samantha Evans; Alison M. Pearn; Andrew Sclater; Paul White (eds.). The Correspondence of Charles Darwin:, Volume 14; Volume 1866 (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 129. ISBN 9780521844598.
  12. ^ Charles Darwin (1898). The Various Contrivances by which Orchids are Fertilized by Insects (second ed.). D. Appleton and Company. p. 52.
  13. ^ Fenster, Charles B.; Marten-Rodriguez, Silvana (2007). "Reproductive Assurance And The Evolution Of Pollination Specialization" (PDF). International Journal of Plant Sciences. 168 (2): 215–228. CiteSeerX doi:10.1086/509647.
  14. ^ Fenster, Charles B.; Marten-Rodrıguez, Silvana (2007). "Reproductive Assurance and the Evolution of Pollination Specialization" (PDF). International Journal of Plant Sciences. 168 (2): 215–228. CiteSeerX doi:10.1086/509647. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  15. ^ Dawkins, R. (1986) The Blind Watchmaker
  16. ^ Plantlife website County Flowers page Archived 2015-04-30 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ WORDS Latin-to-English Dictionary by William Whittaker, AbleMedia Classics Technology Center, accessed 2014-11-13
  18. ^ Function of floral pigments in the orchid genus Ophrys. Kheim, Doris (2009), Diplomarbeit, University of Vienna (abstract)
  19. ^ Occurrence of flavonoids in Ophrys (Orchidaceae) flower parts. Anastasia Karioti, Christine K. Kitsaki, Stella Zygouraki, Marouska Ziobora, Samah Djeddi, Helen Skaltsa and Georgios Liakopoulos, Flora - Morphology, Distribution, Functional Ecology of Plants, Volume 203, Issue 7, 1 October 2008, Pages 602–609, doi:10.1016/j.flora.2007.09.009

External links

Aller Brook

The Aller Brook is a stream that flows for 5.0 miles (8 km) through Devon, England. It is a primary tributary of the River Teign, which it joins near Newton Abbot.

Bee orchid

Bee orchid is a common name for several orchids and may refer to:

Ophrys, a European genus of terrestrial orchids

Ophrys apifera, a species in the genus Ophrys, and the species from which the genus was given its English name

Cottonia peduncularis, a species of orchid from India and Sri Lanka

Diuris carinata, a species of orchid from the south-west of Western Australia

Ida barringtoniae, a species of orchid found in Puerto Rico

Bowerchalke Downs

Bowerchalke Downs (grid reference SU004218) (also known as Woodminton, Marleycombe Down and Knowle Down), is a 128.6 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in Wiltshire, notified in 1971. The downs encompass the entire southern outlook of the village of Bowerchalke in the Salisbury district of Wiltshire, England, and are adjacent to both the Hampshire and Dorset county boundaries. The Bowerchalke Downs are located within the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and are part of the Southern England Chalk Formation.


Cottonia is a monotypic genus of flowering plants from the orchid family, Orchidaceae: the only known species is Cottonia peduncularis. It is native to India and Sri Lanka. The genus was erected by Robert Wight and named after Major F. Cotton, an amateur botanist who served in the Madras Engineer Group and collected the species from Tellichery.

This epiphytic orchid has a lip shaped like a hairy bee as in the well-known Ophrys apifera giving it the name of bee-orchid but unlike species in the genus Ophrys, it is not known to be pollinated by any bee. It was first described as Vanda peduncularis by Lindley.

Darwell Wood

Darwell Wood is a 37.5-hectare (93-acre) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest north-west of Battle in East Sussex.

Hélène Durand

Hélène Durand (9 August 1883 Watermael-Boitsfort - 4 August 1934 Ukkel) was a Belgian botanical illustrator.

She was the daughter of Theophile Durand, a Director of the National Botanic Garden of Belgium between 1901 and 1912, and Sofie Van Eelde. Her training included courses in both art and botany, and for a while she worked at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. In 1912 she was employed on a full-time basis at the Garden, which is located in the grounds of Bouchout Castle in the town of Meise, just north of Brussels. From here she produced illustrations showing great scientific accuracy - these included line drawings and illustrations for the wood museum.

Her unpublished images on the gymnosperms are particularly attractive, and effectively capture the subtle colours and textures of their cones. The time devoted to her drawing of a cone of Abies procera amounted to more than 105 hours. Several of her illustrations have been published in scientific journals.

Hélène Durand shared an apartment with her sister Louise. She suffered from a lung condition which did not respond to the treatments tried. A stay at Keerbergen in the countryside led only to temporary relief, and she died in the night of 4 August 1934.The standard author abbreviation H.Durand is used to indicate this person as the author when citing a botanical name. She worked on Sylloge Florae Congolanae with her father.

Jardin botanique de la Faculté de Pharmacie

The Jardin botanique de la Faculté de Pharmacie (2 hectares), more formally the Jardin de la Faculté des Sciences Pharmaceutiques et Biologiques de l'Université de Lille 2, is a botanical garden and arboretum operated by the Faculty of Pharmacy of the Université de Lille 2. It is located at 3 Rue du Professeur Laguesse, Lille, Nord, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France, and open weekdays except university holidays; an admission fee is charged.

It is one of three botanical gardens in Lille, the others being the Jardin des Plantes de Lille and the Jardin botanique Nicolas Boulay at the Université Catholique de Lille.

The garden was established in 1970 when the Faculty of Pharmacy moved to its current location. Its arboretum was created in 1985, and in 1999 the garden was designated a member of the Jardins botaniques de France et des Pays francophones.

Today the garden contains more than 1,000 taxa, including herbaceous plants (117 species), gymnosperms (20 species), trees and shrubs, ornamental plants, medicinal plants, and perfume plants, arranged as follows:

Systematic gardens (5,000 m²) - 22 plots containing several hundred species. One section is arranged by botanical family according to a modern molecular system, another by medical use or toxicity, and a third by ecology.

Arboretum - more than 80 species; trees including Abies nordmannia, Acer shirasawanum, Alnus glutinosa, Betula papyrifera, Diospyros lotus, Liriodendron tulipifera, Ostrya carpinifolia, Sciadopitys verticillata, Sorbus aria, and Sequoia sempervirens, as well as shrubs including Bupleurum fruticosum, Cytisus battandieri, Enkianthus campanulatus, Ficus erecta v. beescheyana, Fothergilla major, Garrya elliptica, Paederia splendens, Poncirus trifoliata, Securinega suffruticosa, Syringa afghanica, andXanthoceras sorbifolium.

Tropical greenhouse (120 m²) - Cinnamomum camphora, Leonotis leonurus, Ornithogalum caudatum, Plumeria rubra, Pogostemon cablin, Strelitzia reginae, etc.

Herbarium - 76,500 specimens including fungi (60,000 specimens), angiosperms (10,000), lichens (4,500), and bryophytes (2,000).Additional plants include Agave, Aloe, Epipactis helleborine, Ophrys apifera, Opuntia, and Orchis militaris.

List of the orchids of Ireland

This is an annotated list of the orchids found in Ireland.

Little Ponton

Little Ponton is a village in the South Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, England. It lies 2 miles (3 km) south of Grantham and about 60 metres (200 ft) above sea level. Its population is included in the figure for the civil parish of Little Ponton and Stroxton.


Monawilkin is a townland in the West Fermanagh Scarplands in the Civil Parish of Inishmacsaint, Barony of Magheraboy, Northern Ireland. The townland has an area of 85.1947 hectares (210.521 acres) and has previously been referred to as Meenwilkin (1817) and Munadh Wilkin ("Wilkin's bog" 1834). Monawilkin is the best example of unimproved calcareous grassland (blue moor-grass) in Northern Ireland. This differs from other Sesleria-dominated grasslands in the UK in that it also includes species such as Euphrasia salisburgensis (eyebright). Monawilikin is also an important orchid site, contains the best inland site for moths and butterflies (23 species recorded) in Northern Ireland, and is the only Northern Irish site for Cupido minimus, the small blue butterfly. Consequently, this area was designated as a special area of conservation (SAC) and area of special scientific interest (ASSI). The Monawilkin SAC land cover comprises 3% water bodies, 5% bogs, marshes, and fringe water vegetation, 13% heath and scrub, 50% dry grassland, 14% humid grassland, and 15% broad-leaved woodland.

Mount Saint Peter

Mount Saint Peter (French: Montagne Saint-Pierre; Dutch: Sint-Pietersberg), also referred to as Caestert Plateau, is the northern part of a plateau running north to south between the valleys of the river Geer to the west, and the Meuse to the east. It runs from Maastricht in the Netherlands, through Riemst in Belgian Limburg almost to the city of Liège in Belgium, thus defining the topography of this border area between Flanders, Wallonia and the Netherlands. The name of the hill, as well as the nearby village and church of Sint Pieter and the fortress of Sint Pieter, refers to Saint Peter, one of the Twelve Apostles.

Noar Hill

Noar Hill, near Selborne in East Hampshire, is best known for its nature reserve.


The genus Ophrys is a large group of orchids from the alliance Orchis in the subtribe Orchidinae. They are widespread across much of Europe, North Africa, the Canary Islands, and the Middle East as far east as Turkmenistan.These plants are remarkable in that they successfully reproduce through pseudocopulation, that is, their flowers mimic female insects to such a degree that amorous males are fooled into mating with the flowers, thereby pollinating them. There are many natural hybrids.

They are referred to as the "bee orchids" due to the flowers of some species resemblance to the furry bodies of bees and other insects. Their scientific name Ophrys is the Greek word for "eyebrow", referring to the furry edges of the lips of several species.Ophrys was first mentioned in the book "Natural History" by Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD).

Ophrys fuciflora

Ophrys fuciflora (late spider-orchid) is a species of flowering plant in the orchid family. It is widespread across much of Europe from Britain and Spain to Turkey and Romania, plus Libya and the Middle East as far east as Iraq.There has been considerable confusion over the correct name of this species. Many authors have called it Ophrys holoserica, but O. holoserica (Burm.f.) Greuter is a synonym of a different species, Ophrys apifera, the bee orchid.

Ophrys insectifera

Ophrys insectifera, the fly orchid, is a species of orchid and the type species of the genus Ophrys. It is remarkable as an example of sexually-deceptive pollination and floral mimicry as well as of a highly-selective and highly evolved plant-pollinator relationship.

Orchid of the Year

The Orchid of the Year is a yearly honor given since 1989 to an orchid species native to Germany by the Arbeitskreis Heimische Orchideen (Native Orchid Research Group, AHO), a German orchid conservation federation. The choice of orchids follows the endangerment of the species or its habitat due to human pressure.


A pollinium (plural pollinia) is a coherent mass of pollen grains in a plant that are the product of only one anther, but are transferred, during pollination, as a single unit. This is regularly seen in plants such as orchids and many species of milkweeds (Asclepiadoideae). Usage of the term differs: in some orchids two masses of pollen are well attached to one another, but in other orchids there are two halves (with two separate viscidia) each of which is sometimes referred to as a pollinium.Most orchids have waxy pollinia. These are connected to one or two elongate stipes, which in turn are attached to a sticky viscidium, a disc-shaped structure that sticks to a visiting insect.Some orchid genera have mealy pollinia. These are tapering into a caudicle (stalk), attached to the viscidium. They extend into the middle section of the column.

The pollinarium is a collective term that means either (1) the complete set of pollinia from all the anthers of a flower, as in Asclepiadoideae, (2) in Asclepiadoideae, a pair of pollinia and the parts that connect them (corpusculum and translator arms), or (3) in orchids, a pair of pollinia with two viscidia and the other connecting parts.

Tottenham Marshes

The Tottenham Marshes are located at Tottenham in the London Borough of Haringey. The marshes cover over 100 acres (0.40 km2) and became part of the Lee Valley Park in 1972. The marsh is made up of three main areas: Clendish Marsh, Wild Marsh West and Wild Marsh East. The latter two are separated by the River Lea.

West Yatton Down

West Yatton Down (grid reference ST852760) is a 14.4 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in Wiltshire, notified in 1971.

The site is an example of unimproved limestone grassland. Among the more notable plants species are bastard-toadflax (Thesium humifusum), Dyer's greenweed (Genista tinctoria), and musk orchid (Herminium monorchis). Other species present include yellow-wort (Blackstonia perfoliata), kidney vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria), devil's-bit scabious (Succisa pratensis), bee orchid (Ophrys apifera), tor-grass (Brachypodium pinnatum) and upright brome (Bromus erectus).

The site is also of interest for invertebrates. Twenty-five butterfly species have been recorded, including chalkhill blue, Duke of Burgundy, pearl-bordered fritillary and green hairstreak.

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