Bee Orchid

Ophrys apifera

The Bee Orchid is self-fertilizing, but it may be pollinated by insects (bees). In Lower Austria, the Bee Orchid is an endangered orchid species.

Depending on the site and the surrounding vegetation, this orchid may grow from 10 to 60cm high. The basal leaves (2 to 5 in number) are oval to lanceolate; in contrast, the leaves enclosing the stem are narrower at the tip. An individual plant may have 2 to 10 flowers which always nod in two directions. The outer sepals are large and normally turned back and from 12 to 16mm long. Their colour varies from dark pink to whitish with green veins. The inner petals are normally half as long as the sepals, are roughly triangular, hairy and fibrous. Here the colour also varies, from pink to green. The velvety, dark-brown lip has three nodes and is almost bulbous in shape. The lateral lobes are gathered close to the margin and thickly haired, brownish or yellowish-green. The midlobe is pushed back to the edges and has a whitish-yellow ribbon towards the back. There are usually two yellow spots towards the front. Flowering takes place from April to July.

The Bee Orchid is a common plant in most parts of Europe (Western, Central and Southern). Its range extends to northern Africa in the south and southwest Asia and Caucasus in the east.

Endangerment and Conservation Status
All orchid species are fully protected in all of Austria. Currently, the Bee Orchid is especially endangered.

Ecological Characteristics
Ophrys apifera prefers dry grasslands, moist and dry meadows and woodland glades. It also grows on dunes, deserted quarries and woodland margins. Soil should be neutral or basic; light, chalky or with a thin top soil. The Bee Orchid cannot survive in soils which are too moist or too dry.

Special Characteristics
The Bee Orchid is capable of self-fertilization, or autogamy.


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