Photo 1. An early spider-orchid flower (Photo by M. Randić)
Early spider-orchid (Ophrys sphegodes)
In his monography Hrvatske orhideje (The Orchids of Croatia), Radovan Kranjčev, PhD, an expert on orchids, lists some 15 species of orchids of the genus Ophrys growing on the islands of Kvarner Bay. One of them is the early spider-orchid (Ophrys sphegodes), which is special because it begins to blossom very early in the year, sometimes as early as the beginning of March, when the grasses of the Mediterranean grasslands are still mostly dry. Lying hidden in the dry grass, the stems and flowers of the orchids are difficult to spot. Often, a lot of luck and effort is needed to notice the greenish-brown flower in its habitat. When you do find one, you will be surprized by its unusual shape, especially by its dark and velvety labellum and the H shaped marking on its “mirror” (Photo 1). At this time of year, other early spring plants such as Haller’s sedge (Carex halleriana), the rock dandelion (Taraxacum laevigatum) and the broad-leaved anemone (Anemone hortensis), one of the loveliest spring flowers, also blossom on the still sleepy grasslands (Photo 2).
Reference: Kranjčev, R. (2005): Hrvatske orhideje: prilozi za hrvatsku floru: staništa, svojte, hibridi, zaštita. AKD, Zagreb.