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Ophrys are a group of terrestrial Orchids with unbranched stems and showy flowers that often resemble insects.

There are approximately 150 species, according to the American Orchid Society, that naturally hybridize.

While collecting plants or even seeds from the wild is discouraged, there are numerous places to purchase plants that were grown in cultivation.


The Ophrys Genus

The Ophrys genus is native to Central & South Europe, North Africa, Asia Minor, and in Asia in the Caucasus Mountains.

Commonly called “Bee Orchids,” these beautiful terrestrial orchids resemble insects, and are difficult to grow and keep in good shape in cultivation for extended periods of time.

The plants flower lip resembles different insects, depending on the particular species, most commonly resembling flies or bees, thus the reason for their common name.

Slugs and snails, especially in cultivation, are the main pests that bother these plants.

Ophrys Native Habitat

In their native habitat, they inhabit open grassy or stone slopes, and prefer a chalky underground, although some prefer woodland settings or even marshes.

Most interesting is their method of pollination, which involves the pseudocopulation of males of some solitary bee species.

The male bees are attracted by a combination of the shape and the smell of the flowers which smells like females of native bees species.

Ophrys require good drainage, with frost-free conditions.

Once they have flowered, they must be kept almost dry until flowering begins again, then carefully watered.

To be successful growing them in cultivation, the ideal habitat is in an Alpine house in terrestrial orchid potting mix in bright filtered light.

If you wish to make your own terrestrial orchid potting mix, it is made up of three parts fibrous peat, three parts coarse grit, 1 part perlite and 1 part fine charcoal.

For those lucky enough to live in an area where these can be grown outdoors year round, plant Ophrys in leafy, humus-rich soil that is gritty and sharply drained in partial shade.

Ophrys Propagation

To propagate Ophrys, simply seperate offsets in the autumn and replant them.

While plants may set seed, Orchid seed is not easy to germinate and is mainly done via tissue culture.

Orchid seeds germinate in the wild with the help of mycorrhizal fungus and that must be used if you plan to germinate the tiny Orchid seeds in cultivation.

Ophrys scolofax

The Ophrys scolofax grows up to 15” tall, as do most of the Ophrys species, and is native to South Europe.

One source for the Ophrys Scolofax is Paul Christian Rare Plants who also carry other Ophrys.

If you want to grow your own collection of Ophrys, I highly recommend you purchase plants from a rare plant dealer who obtained them legally.

Other Varieties Of Ophrys

Other common varieties of Ophrys include Ophrys apifera , Ophrys arachnites, Ophrys aranifera, Ophrys bertoloni, Ophrys bombylifera, Ophrys cornuta , Ophrys fusca , Ophrys lutea , Ophrys muscifera, Ophrys speculum, and Ophrys sphegodes.

These are some of the more interesting plants that I have come across, and although I have never tried to grow one yet, Ophrys are on my wish list.

If you have successfuly grown any of the Ophrys genuis in cultivation, I’d love to hear from you!

Flowering Tropical Plants

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