Botanical Name: Ophrys sphegodes
Species: O. sphegodes
*Ophrys araneola Rchb.
*Ophrys aranifera f.
Common Nmaes: Early spider-orchid
Ophrys sphegodes is native to Central and southern Europe, including Britain, to N. Africa. It grows on grassy slopes, banks and field borders on chalk or limestone.
Ophrys sphegodes is a perennial orchid plant. The plant height varies with latitude. In the UK the maximum height is around 20 cm, but around the Mediterranean a height of 70 cm may be reached. Flowers March–May (April–May in northern latitudes). Each shoot may carry between 2 and 18 flowers. The flowers have yellow-green sepals and a velvety red-brown labellum with a distinctive silvery-blue H marking so that the flowers much resemble an arthropod and especially a spider.
Similar to Ophrys fuciflora and Ophrys apifera but flowers differ in that late spider orchid and bee orchid have much smaller petals than sepals; in early spider orchid petals and sepals are a similar size. They are also distinguished by patches of colour on the labellum; late spider orchid has a yellow point at the centre of the distal end of the labellum, while bee orchid has a red patch at the proximal end of the labellum.
Plants can be grown in a lawn, but the lawn must not be cut until the plants have set seed. Plants prefer a shady position. Orchids are, in general, shallow-rooting plants of well-drained low-fertility soils. Their symbiotic relationship with a fungus in the soil allows them to obtain sufficient nutrients and be able to compete successfully with other plants. They are very sensitive to the addition of fertilizers or fungicides since these can harm the symbiotic fungus and thus kill the orchid. This symbiotic relationship makes them very difficult to cultivate, though they will sometimes appear uninvited in a garden and will then thrive. Transplanting can damage the relationship and plants might also thrive for a few years and then disappear, suggesting that they might be short-lived perennials. The flowers resemble a female insect and also emit a scent similar to female pheremones, they are pollinated by a male insect of that species attempting to copulate with the flower. Plants are rather sparingly visited by bees, setting seed only if visited. Tubers should be planted out whilst they are dormant, this is probably best done in the autumn. They should be planted at least 5cm below soil level.
Root – cooked. It is a source of ‘salep’, a fine white to yellowish-white powder that is obtained by drying the tuber and grinding it into a powder. Salep is said to be very nutritious and is made into a drink or added to other cereals and used in bread etc. One ounce of salep is said to be enough to sustain a person for a day. The salep can also be made into a drink.
Salep is very nutritive and demulcent. It has been used as a diet of special value for children and convalescents, being boiled with water, flavoured and prepared in the same way as arrowroot. Rich in mucilage, it forms a soothing and demulcent jelly that is used in the treatment of irritations of the gastro-intestinal canal. One part of salep to fifty parts of water is sufficient to make a jelly. The tuber, from which salep is prepared, should be harvested as the plant dies down after flowering and setting seed.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.