Ophrys argolica subsp. biscutella - Spectacled Ophrys

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae

Ophrys argolica subsp. biscutella - Spectacled Ophrys

This orchid forms part of the Ophrys argolica group and is sometimes simply referred to as Ophrys biscutella. Identification is tricky since many other ophrys species, including Ophrys bertolonii, can have two shields on their lips so it is advisable to look for some of the other features (described below) in order to have some degree of optimism that you have got it right.


Known only from southern Italy Ophrys biscutella can easily be confused with many other ophrys orchids that have similar markings on their flower lips. The main difference is that the lip of O. biscutella is a universal dark brown and velvety looking, resembling that of O. fuciflora rather than other species that have paler margins - O. tenthredinifera, for instance. The plant is robust, growing up to 50cm and each infloresence carries between 2 - 10 large flowers.


Known only from Italy, the distribution of this orchid is localised but it is sometimes found in large colonies.


Ophrys biscutella is tolerant of more than one kind of habitat. We found it not only in open dry grassland and rocky places but also on the moist and semi-shaded edges of woodland.

Flowering times

This orchid flowers from the beginning of April through to the end of May.

Ophrys argolica subsp. biscutella - Spectacled Ophrys, closeup

This specimens shown on this page were photographed near Monte Sant'Angelo (top) and Foresta Umbra (bottom) on the Gargano Peninsula, Italy, in mid April.


The genus name Ophrys comes from Greek and means 'eyebrow' - a reference to the hairy fringe of the lip of the flower of many orchids in this genus. The specific epithet argolica refers to Argos, in Greece, from where this orchid species was first officially recorded. Its subspecies name biscutella refers to the mirror on the lip, which is in the form of two spots, sometimes joined in the middle, resembling a pair of glasses - hence the English common name of Spectacled Ophrys.

Reference sources

The Plant List

Henrik AErenlund Pedersen & Niels Faurholdt (2007) Ophrys - The Bee Orchids of Europe; Kew

Pierre Delforge (2005) Orchids of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; A&C Black

Les Orchidees de France, Belgique et Luxemborg; Parthenope Collection

Angela Rossini and Giovanni Quiadamo (2003) Orchidee Spontanee nel Parco Nazionale del Gargano; Centrografico Francescano

Claudio Del Fuoco (2003) Orchidee del Gargano

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