From the Greek ophrys, eyebrow, a name for a plant of uncertain identity (perhaps Listera ovata (L.) R.Br.) used by Pliny, who mentions its use to blacken eyebrows or hair; the name equally could be an allusion to the resemblance of the curved sepals of some species to an arched eyebrow. (JW). (Pridgeon et al. 2002).
Mostly small perennial herbs. Rootstock tuberous, tubers two (sometimes three), globose or ovoid, entire, sessile or stipitate. Stem glabrous. Leaves basal, rosulate and/ or cauline, unspotted. Inflorescence lax. Flowers usually showy, insectiform. Sepals and petals free, ± spreading. Sepals larger, sometimes reflexed, usually glabrous, green, rose-pink, or whitish. Petals smaller, glabrous or hirsute. Labellum spurless, flattened, arcuate or strongly convex, entire, subentire or three-lobed, sometimes with two conical lateral protuberances at the base, or at the base of the lateral lobes, often with a distinct, deflexed, horizontal or upturned, glabrous apical appendage (which sometimes has a hair tuft at its base) or a less distinct apical mucro, velutinous above, with a variously shaped, often shiny, glabrous central area or markings (speculum), above which, in most species, is an often brightly coloured, shield-shaped area (basal field) at the base, and to either side of which may be two small swellings (basal callosities). Column having a short or rostrate, obtuse, acute or acuminate connective; rostellum minute; lateral appendages often indicated by coloured points, one on either side of the stigmatic cavity; pollinia two, attached to separate viscidia. Ovary sessile, not or slightly twisted, glabrous. (JW).