Since 2017, a collaboration has been in place between the Uffizi Galleries and the Florentine section of G.I.R.O.S., the "Italian Group for Research on Spontaneous Orchids" for the census, enhancement and conservation of the heritage of spontaneous orchids in the Boboli Gardens.
The Orchidaceae family includes some 20,000 species worldwide, grouped in about 800 genera. They are widespread in all environments, with the exception of desert areas and mountain peaks. In Europe, and in the circum-Mediterranean area in particular, there are around 700 species and hybrids, at least a third of which can be found on the Italian peninsula, from sea level to 2,500 metres above sea level.
The results of the census conducted in the 2018 and 2019 seasons were published in GIROS OSE vol.63 (1); news about the 2022 season census can be found here.
In 2021, a new hybrid was found in the Upper Botanical Area: "Ophrys ×bobolensis Romolini, Nieri & Petrucci nothosp. nov.", a description of which was published by the Authors in GIROS OSE vol.65 (2) 2022. It is a hybrid between Ophrys classica and Ophrys maritima, which are present with some specimens in the same flowerbed. The flowering period takes place between the end of March and the end of April. At the end of the 2022 season, we found 15 species, 3 varieties and the hybrid mentioned.
The formation of hybrids is a fairly frequent phenomenon in wild orchids, due to the use of pollinating insects to transfer gametes from one flower to another. In particular, for the reproduction of orchids of the genus Ophrys, which the described hybrid belongs to, the appearance of the flower is particularly important. It mimics the shape of the female pollinating insect, which is also attracted by specific odour stimuli, often even more intense than the stimuli emitted by the female itself. All the parts that make up the flower combine in a specific way to optimise the removal of pollen and its transport to other flowers by the insect 'tricked' by the orchid. The formation of hybrids is the result of 'mistakes' made by the male insect, which mistakes the flowers of more than one species for its own female version.
Rolando Romolini, Giampaolo Nieri, Fabrizia Petrucci
GIROS. Gruppo Italiano per la Ricerca sulle Orchidee Spontanee