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Yellow Bee Orchid – Ophrys lutea

Yellow Bee Orchid – Ophrys lutea © Tony Hall
Yellow Bee Orchid – Ophrys lutea © Tony Hall

Yellow Bee Orchid - Ophrys lutea

by Tony Hall

This beautifully striking little orchid, will generally be found growing to around 10-20cm tall, occasionally taller. The main leaves are oblong and form a basal rosette of up to six leaves (often browning by flowering time), with other leaves alternately sheathing the flowering stem. These are narrower and more pointed then the basal leaves.

The conspicuous yellow flowers (1-7) are borne evenly spaced along a single spike. The three perianth segments are olive-green, the upper one curves forward. The lip is oblong, 3-lobed, with the side lobes usually slightly overlapping the middle one, which is notched at the end. The lobes are flattened, bright-yellow and hairless.  They have slightly upturned wavy margins. The centre is a raised brown to blackish-violet patch, with lighter bluish-grey markings.

This is an orchid that prefers to grow in damp grassy fields but will also grow in open woodlands amongst scrub, from February to May. Preferring calcareous soils.

Tony Hall, Manager of the Arboretum and Gardens at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, specialising in the plants of Andalucía.