Early Spider Orchid, Ophrys Sphegodes, which makes up for its lack of colour with a deep black speculum on a maroon coloured labellum surrounded by an almost "bushy" growth of black "hair" looking for all the world like a well groomed beard.

   With diligence all these Bee Orchids can be found on the hills overlooking the village and, in addition, several other Orchid species will be bumped into along the way. Early on and hard to overlook is the local form of Early Purple Orchid, here occurring as sub-species Olbiensis, and noted for its variety of striking colour forms and to be found in good numbers on the slopes overlooking the swimming pool and higher up near the Castle. Twice only, in 20 years of searching, I have found the amazing and shocking pink Orchis Italica, enjoying the English name of Naked Man Orchid - for reasons which will be immediately obvious to anyone fortunate enough to find one!

   For the discerning seeker in April the nodding bells of Fritillaria Hispanica can be found in scattered populations though a good eye is needed to pick them out. Many of the rarities such as Burning Bush, Dictamnus, of Biblical Fame and occurring above Pla de Alt, demand a knowing eye to spot them among the massed ranks of Cistus,Vetches, Restharrows, Cranesbills and Geraniums, Flaxes, Sages, Convolvulus in all its myriad of colour forms and that truly lovely plant Meadow Rue, Thalictrum Tuberosum, to be found in relative profusion on the Pine covered slopes of the Serellas.
In May the humbler named Man Orchid, Aceras Anthropophorum, can be found on El Faro and on the foothills around Pla de Alt with its spike of unassuming but quietly attractive flowers each closely resembling a caricature of a man and giving rise to its name.

   Finders of the earlier mentioned Fritillarias would do well to pay attention to the surrounding area since Wild Tulips, Tulipa Australis, often grow in similar terrain and are a plant not to be missed being of a striking Yellow colour to rival even the above mentioned Narc Assoanus.
Diminutive Violets and other ground hugging flowers such as Campanulas (also to be found in a variety of erect forms),Helianthemums, or Rockroses, in Yellow or Pink together with a host of taller and more obvious plants clamour for attention. Spanish Rusty Foxglove, Wild Lavender, assorted Alliums, Blue Alkanet, and the hard to miss Blue and Purple flowers of a range of Echiums such as Purple Vipers Bugloss catch the eye with seemingly little effort.

   Occasionally, if fortunate, beneath Cistus bushes on hillsides which, in Autumn, are home to a profusion of the beautiful purple Crocus Saltzmanii, can be found the unique bright red parasitic plant Cytinus Ruber which, in keeping with the wide variety of Broomrapes, Orobanchaceae, that can be found around the village, feeds on the roots of other plants such as Cistus and Restharrow.

   There are a considerable number of books and Field Guides available to assist in the identification of flowering plants in the area. Any of those covering Mediterranean Flowers will be of use together with anything on Alpines. For the more dedicated, and if it can be obtained out here, is the book that I have found most comprehensive entitled
The Flowers of South West Europe by Polunin and Smythies ISBN No  0-19-288178-7 by Oxford University Press. If possible, when choosing your book/s look for those that use photographic plates as opposed to artificially coloured drawings as the two depictions of the same subject can be worlds apart.

Happy  hunting.

Brian Pettit.
Copyright 2007

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