The Wild Orchids of Cyprus

Recent rains have nourished Cyprus, greening the landscape and bringing forth the annual show of spring wildflowers.

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Recent rains have nourished Cyprus, greening the landscape and bringing forth the annual show of spring wildflowers. Among these are wild orchids—the island is home to 46 species of them. Among the first to appear are the Bee Orchids, which encompass 17 species of the genus Ophrys. These flowers are so named because they look like bees. Indeed, they imitate not just the look but the scent of female bees, sometimes luring male bees to pollinate them. Their stem emerges from a cluster of leaves and reaches a height of 15-30 centimetres before flowering. In March and April, Wavy-Leaved Monkey Orchids come into bloom. Their flowers, emerging from a stem of 20 centimetres, are shaped like tiny monkeys. Also arriving at this time of year is the Early Spider Orchid, which, as you might have guessed, boasts a flower resembling a spider; look for a fuzzy brown bloom marked by a blue H. Emerging a bit later in the Spring is the Long-Lipped Serapias, one of the tallest at 50 centimetres; its flowers seem to stick a tongue out at you. Anatolian Orchids, by contrast, offer delicate blossoms of mauve, pink, or white. Many species can be seen near Anassa. Early Spider Orchids thrive on local beaches, while 34 species are known to inhabit the wilds of the Akamas peninsula. Some hikers recommend the nearby Smigies Trail there for an orchid walk. Cyprus orchids are protected, so please don’t pick them; take a snapshot instead and share their beauty with others.