by Stephen Mifsud
   15 Jul 2024      ()
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Ophrys lutea subsp. lutea   (Yellow bee orchid)

Ophrys lutea subsp. lutea  (ORCHIDACEAE.) 
Images for this profile are taken from the Maltese Islands after year 2000.

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Profile Date Dec-2007 (taxon update: none)
Citation for this page Mifsud, S. (2022). Ophrys lutea subsp. lutea - datasheet created on Dec-2007. Retrieved from on 15-Jul-2024

Nomenclature and Basic Information

Species name :

Ophrys lutea subsp. lutea(Gouan) Cav.
Published in Icon. Descr. 2: 46 (1793)

Synonyms :
(basionym or principal syn.)

Ophrys insectifera var. lutea Gouan
Full list of synonyms : [Euro+Med] [PlantList] [IPNI] [POWO] [Catalogue of Life] []

Plant Family :

Orchidaceae Juss. (The Orchid Family)
41 species from the Orchidaceae family are recorded from the Maltese Islands.

English name(s) :

Yellow bee orchid

Maltese name(s) :

Żunżana safra l-kbira

Status for Malta :

Indigenous. Present on the Maltese islands before man

Frequency :

Very Common     Common    Frequent     Scarce     Rare    Very rare    Extinct

Growth form :

Raunkiaer lifeform [info]: GEOPHYTE ( bearing underground bulbs, rhizomes, stolons, etc. )
Germination [info]: Monocotyledon

Legal Protection :

Protected by law: Schedule VI of [S.L. 549.44] (strictly protected species)

Red List (1989) :

Threatened status for the Maltese Islands and has been listed in the Red Data Book (1st ed.)

Flowering Time :

March – April

Colour of Flowers:

Yellow or Brown


Not particularly toxic

Name Derivation :

Ophrys: Eyebrow, referring to the brown, furry edges found in the flowering lips of several. (Latin origin )
lutea subsp. lutea:

Planting in rural areas :

Can be planted in rural areas according to ERA Guidelines

Remarks :

Due to intersecting characters with O. lutea subsp. phryganae, it is difficult to separate the two orchids and possibly the few plants assigned as O. lutea subsp. lutea in the Maltese Islands are within the range of O. lutea subsp. phryganae (individuals with large flowers). There is a geographic transitional change from the eastern subsp. phrygana and the western subsp. lutea where Malta lies somewhere in the centre.

Description, Habitat and Distribution
Habitat in Europe: Grassland, garigue, rocky scrub; calcicole.
Preferred habitat in Malta: Garigue, steppe, exposed rocky ground
Botanical Description: Plant 7-30 cm. Basal leaves ovate, acute. Spike 2- to 7-flowered, lax. Perianth-segments subglabrous or papillose at margin; outer c. 10 mm, oblong-ovate, obtuse, green, the lateral sub-patent, the median incurved; inner perianth-segments 1/3-1/2 as long as the outer, linear-oblong, green or yellowish. Labellum 9-18 mm, suborbicular or oblong, with flat margin, dark brown or blackish-purple, with yellow or greenish marginal zone, papillose, 3-lobed, not globose-inflated; lateral lobes ovate, obtuse; middle lobe reniform, often incised; speculum entire or 2-lobed, grey or bluish-grey. Connective obtuse.
Distributional range: Mediterranean region

Distributional map in Europe
and the Mediterranean region (2018):
Occurrences in Europe.
(from Flora Europaea pre year 1993):
C & S Portugal the Balaeric Islands, Corse, Crete, France (incl. Monaco and Channel Islands but excluding Corse), Greece, Spain (incl. Andorra but excl. the Balaerics), Italy (excl. Sicily and Sardignia), ex-Jugoslavia, Portugal, Sardinia, Sicily and/or Malta, Turkey (European part)
Occurrences in Europe and the Mediterranean region.
(from Euro+Med Checklist, 2019)
  Country codes  
AE(G) Ag Al Bl Co Cr Cy Ga Gr Hs IJ It Ju Li Lu Ma Sa Si Tn Tu(A E)

Links & Further literature (4 papers)

Google Web

Google Images

Google Scholar

Research Gate




Med Checklist

Cat. of Life



World Flora Online

Plants of the World Online

Vienna Virt. Herb.

RBGE Herbarium

KEW Herbarium




Recent observations on Ophrys-species and hybrids of the Maltese Archipelago Stephen Mifsud & Leslie Lewis  (2011)
Recent observations on the Ophrys of Malta and Gozo: an Addendum Stephen Mifsud & leslie Lewis  (2013)
Ophrys lutea group from the book Orchids of the Maltese Isalnds Stephen Mifsud  (2018)
Three new species from the genus Ophrys, section pseudophrys [Fam: Orchidaceae] on the Maltese Islands Stephen Mifsud  (2008)
Kindly Email if there are papers and publications about local studies or information about this species to be included in the list above.

Species Images (6 images)
   Ophrys lutea subsp. lutea   -   Image Code: OPHLU-0.
   Ophrys lutea subsp. lutea   -   Image Code: OPHLU-1.
   Ophrys lutea subsp. lutea   -   Image Code: OPHLU-2.
   Ophrys lutea subsp. lutea   -   Image Code: OPHLU-3.
   Ophrys lutea subsp. lutea   -   Image Code: OPHLU-4.
   Ophrys lutea subsp. lutea   -   Image Code: OPHLU-5.

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