Epipactis helleborine var. albifolia/monotropoides – Broad-leaved Helleborine

Phylum: Magnoliophyta – Class: Liliopsida – Order: Orchidales – Family: Orchidaceae

Broad-leaved Helleborine is common throughout its range and grows in dark woodlands, quite often appearing very close to well trodden paths. Coniferous and Beech woodlands are particularly good for Epipactis helleborine. Far less common is this white-flowered variety Epipactis helleborine var. albifolia, as also is the purple flowered Epipactis helleborine var. purpurea and the Green-flowered variety Epipactis helleborine var. viridiflora.

Description

Epipactis helleborine var. albifolia differs from other kinds of Broad-leaved Helleborine in both its flowers and its leaves, which are predominantly white (although pale pink flowers are also recorded).

Lacking in green pigment which would enable it to photsynthesise, it this orchid is probably dependent throughout most if not all its life on a symbiotic relationship with mycrorrhizal fungi in the soil.

Distribution

The plants shown on this page were found in Deep Hayes Country Park in Staffordshire. Because of its rarity it is difficult to form an opinion as to where else in Britain this orchid may appear.

Habitat

The specimens pictured here were found in mixed deciduous woodland.

Flowering times

July and August are the best time to search for this intriguing plant.

Pictures: Elaine Hagget…

Reference sources

The Plant List

Anne and Simon Harrap (2005) Orchids of Britain and Ireland; A&C Black

Pierre Delforge (2005) Orchids of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; A&C Black

Den Nordiska Floran (1992) Bo Mossberg, Stefan Ericsson and Lennart Stenberg; Wahlstrom & Widstrand

If you found this information helpful, we are sure you would also like books on the Wild Orchids of Wales, of The Burren, and of the Algarve. Author-signed copies are available here…

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Epipactis helleborine – Broad-leaved Helleborine

Phylum: Magnoliophyta – Class: Liliopsida – Order: Orchidales – Family: Orchidaceae

Anyone fond of walking in woods and forests in high summer might come across the Broad-leaved Helleborine, which grows in clearings and often appears very close to well trodden paths. Coniferous woodland is particularly good for Epipactis helleborine, but these stately orchids are also found in or on the edges of broadleaf woodland, particularly under Quercus (oak) species.

Accurate identification of Epipactis helleborine is difficult throughout its territorial range because it is extremely variable both in its overall size and the colouring of its flowers.

Depending on their position, the plants of Broad-leaved Helleborine can grow to close on a metre in height, but in more exposed positions the plants are often small and spindly. The leaves, which are large and usually veined, are the most obvious distinguishing feature of the species. The flowers are sometimes green but more often green washed with pink or purple. Some plants have deep pink flowers and this often leads to confusion with Dark-red Helleborine Epipactis atrorubens, but the two species grow in very different habitats.

Widespread throughout Britain and Ireland. This orchid also occurs in most of mainland Europe, although some plants found in the Mediterranean region are treated as separate species. The range continues throughout central Asia and into the Himalayas. Epipactis helleborine was imported to North America and is spreading through many states.

Habitat

Epipactis helleborine is essentially a woodland plant and, although mainly associated with deciduous trees, in Wales it is found extensively with spruce trees. Although it prefers open rides and the sides of paths where there is more light, in some places this orchid grows very successfully in deeply shaded woodland.

Broad-leaved Helleborine flowers from late June through to early September.

The specimens on this page were photographed in dark coniferous woodland in Southwest Wales during August.

Epipactis helleborine f. alba – Broad-leaved Helleborine – white form

From time to time specimens of Epipactis helleborine with white leaves are found, and are described as being a ‘white form’ of the species – see below.

Epipactis helleborine f. alba. Pictures: Simon Harding

The Plant List

Sue Parker (2016) Wild Orchids of Wales – how, when and where to find them; First Nature

Anne and Simon Harrap (2005) Orchids of Britain and Ireland; A&C Black

Pierre Delforge (2005) Orchids of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; A&C Black

Den Nordiska Floran (1992) Bo Mossberg, Stefan Ericsson and Lennart Stenberg; Wahlstrom & Widstrand

If you found this information helpful, we are sure you would also like books on the Wild Orchids of Wales, of The Burren, and of the Algarve. Author-signed copies are available here…

Luontoportti

Broad-leaved Helleborine

Epipactis helleborine

  • Name also: Broad Helleborine, Broadleaf Helleborine
  • Family: Orchid Family – Orchidaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock vertical, short, thick, many-rooted.
  • Height: 30–80 cm (12–32 in.). Upper stem white-haired, light green.
  • Flower: Perianth irregular (zygomorphic), outer surface green, inner surface green–reddish brown–violet, 15–20 mm (0.6–0.8 in.) wide. Tepals 6, in 2 whorls, of which one elaborated into labellum. Labellum under perianth, spurless, constricted in middle, base cup-shaped, dark brownish violet, tip greenish white or pink. Androecium and gynoecium fused into a column, stamens 1, stigmas 2. Inflorescence a quite lax, up to 50-flowered, one-sided raceme. Lower flowers’ subtending bracts long, like stem leaves.
  • Leaves: Alternate, stalkless, amplexicaul, 5–10, becoming smaller towards crown. Blade on lower leaves elliptic, upper leaves lanceolate–ovate, tapered, with entire margin, parallel-veined.
  • Fruit: Nodding capsule. Seeds tiny, like dust.
  • Habitat: Light-filled broad-leaved forests, rich ridge and rocky forests, rich swamps, lime quarries. Calciphile.
  • Flowering time: July–August.
  • Endangerment: Protected in all of Finland.

Broad-leaved helleborine is the largest of the orchids that grow in Finland, reaching up 1 metre (40 in.) high. You might think that such a large and special plant would be unmissable, but in fact it often merges into the green background. Even the flower’s colours are subdued: greenish and reddish brown. The base of the lip is a dark meaty red and attracts especially bees, which feed their young with other insects. Bees also nourish their offspring on ripe fruits and thus transport the micro-organisms in the flower, such as the Cladosporium mushroom. If the fungus enters the nectiferous lip then fermentation begins, creating alcohol and perhaps other intoxicating substances too. The end result is that the bees behave similarly to other creatures at the pub door: an unsteady gait, lurching movements, and when it wears off, straight back for more! Apparently the intoxicated bees are unable to get the orchid’s pollinia out of their head, and this addictive plant ensures efficient pollination. Some Finnish broad-leaved helleborines can also be self-pollinating. A single plant can produce up to a million seeds – as is typical of orchids they are as small as specks of dust, completely without any spare nutrition, and in need of a fungal companion to be able to grow.

Broad-leaved helleborine is completely dependent on a fungal root. A dramatic illustration of this is the stand close to the Lappeenranta lime factory, where a couple of hundred non-chlorophyllous white albino broad-leaved helleborines grow with their faithful companions. This might be the only place in the world where these perceptively nicknamed ghost orchids can be seen so regularly and abundantly – although actually the numbers vary from one year to the next: in a dry summer the fungal filaments are quite passive and as a non-chlorophyllous plant it can’t compensate with assimilation, so its strength peters out before its flowering time.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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Wildflowers of the Adirondacks:
Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine)

Wildflowers of the Adirondacks: Helleborine is a European species first reported in New York State in 1879. Unlike most non-native species, it is shade-tolerant and grows in forests alongside native species. Helleborine on the Sucker Brook Trail at the Adirondack Interpretive Center (5 August 2018).

Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) is a non-native orchid which produces small purplish green flowers in the summer. It grows in shaded woodlands throughout the Adirondacks.

Wildflowers of the Adirondacks: Helleborine is not considered to pose an environmental problem in most areas. Helleborine on the Barnum Brook Trail (8 August 2014).

Helleborine is a member of the Orchid family. It is also known as Broadleaf Helleborine, Eastern Helleborine, Weed Orchid, Broad-leaved Helleborine, and Helleborine Orchid. According to one source, this genus which was originally called hellebore, which apparently refers to a milk-curdling property claimed for some species.

Helleborine is the only alien orchid found in New York State. It is an escaped orchid of Eurasian origin. This plant was first reported near Syracuse, New York, in 1879. It has since spread throughout much of the northeast, as well as north to southern Ontario, west to Minnesota and south through Pennsylvania. It has become the most common woodland orchid in its range.

Helleborine is not considered to pose an environmental problem in most areas and is not included in most invasive plant lists for the US, New York State, or the Adirondack Mountains. However, it is viewed as an invasive species in Wisconsin, where it has become a serious problem in Door County.

Identification of Helleborine

Wildflowers of the Adirondacks: Helleborine leaves are alternate, clasping the stem and becoming smaller in size as they ascend the stem. Helleborine on the Barnum Brook Trail (25 July 2012).

Helleborine plants grow one to three feet in height. The stem is light green and covered with short hairs.

The leaves are oval to lance-link and alternate. They are 1.5 to 6 inches long, and 1.2 to 3 inches wide. The leaves clasp the stem. The veins in the leaves are parallel. The edges of the leaves are slightly wavy. The leaves are variable in size, with the leaves becoming smaller as they ascend the stem.

Helleborine’s small greenish-purple flowers are arranged in a spike-like cluster of up to fifty stalked flowers on the top of the stem. The flowers are 1/2 to 3/4 inches wide. The lower petal forms a bowl, with a greenish-purple lip. The sepals are light green with purple veins. The color of the petals is somewhat variable, ranging from pale yellow green to pink to deep reddish purple, usually with darker purple veins. In the Adirondacks, Helleborine usually flowers in late July and August.

Uses of Helleborine

No medicinal or edible uses of Helleborine were found.

Wildlife Value of Helleborine

No wildlife uses of Helleborine were found.

Distribution of Helleborine

The plant can be found throughout the Northeastern United States, south to Tennessee. It can also be found along the western seaboard, including California and British Columbia. Helleborine is found in nearly all counties in New York State. Its presence has been confirmed in all counties within the Adirondack Park Blue Line, with the exception of Washington County.

Habitat of Helleborine

Helleborine grows in mesic forests, along roadsides, and on disturbed sites. It prefers well-drained sites, often under hardwoods. Helleborine is found along many of the trails covered here.

Michael Kudish. Adirondack Upland Flora: An Ecological Perspective (The Chauncy Press, 1992), pp. 234-235.

New York Flora Association. New York Flora Atlas. Helleborine. Epipactis helleborine (L.) Crantz. Retrieved 14 April 2017.

United States Department of Agriculture. The Plants Database. Broadleaf Helleborine. Epipactis helleborine (L.) Crantz. Retrieved 14 April 2017.

Flora of North America. Epipactis helleborine (Linnaeus) Crantz. Retrieved 14 April 2017.

NatureServe Explorer. Online Encyclopedia of Life. Epipactis helleborine – (L.) Crantz. Retrieved 14 April 2017.

Connecticut Botanical Society. Helleborine. Retrieved 14 April 2017.

University of Wisconsin. Flora of Wisconsin. Epipactis helleborine (L.) Crantz. Retrieved 14 April 2017.

Minnesota Wildflowers. Epipactis helleborine (Helleborine). Retrieved 14 April 2017.

Lawrence Newcomb. Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide (Little Brown and Company, 1977), pp.48-49.

Roger Tory Peterson and Margaret McKenny. A Field Guide to Wildflowers. Northeastern and North-central North America (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1968), pp. 371-373.

William K. Chapman, et al. Wildflowers of New York in Color (Syracuse University Press, 1998), pp. 114-115.

Steven Clemants and Carol Gracie. Wildflowers in the Field and Forest: A Field Guide to the Northeastern United States (Oxford University Press, 2006), pp.132-133.

Information on Non-native Plants

United States Department of Agriculture. List of Federal Noxious Weeds. Retrieved 14 April 2017.

United States Department of Agriculture. Composite List of Federal and State Noxious Weeds. Retrieved 14 April 2017.

Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States. Retrieved 14 April 2017.

National Invasive Species Information Center. Species Profiles. Retrieved 14 April 2017.

New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse. Invasiveness Assessment Scores and Ranks for 183 Nonnative Plant Species in NYS. Retrieved 14 April 2017.

Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program. Terrestrial Invasive Plant Project. Retrieved 14 April 2017.

Wildflowers of the Adirondack Park

Epipactis helleborine (Broad-leaved Helleborine) is a terrestrial species of orchid. Its nodding flowers vary from greenish pink to purple, and it prefers shaded woodland environments.

Description

Epipactis helleborine grows to a height of 80 cms has broad dull green leaves which are strongly ribbed and flat. The flowers are arranged in a long drooping racemes with dull green sepals and shorter upper petals. The lower labellum is pale red and is much shorter than the upper petals.

Distribution

It is widespread across much of Europe and Asia from Portugal to China, as well as northern Africa. In North America, it is widely naturalized mostly in the Northeastern United States, eastern Canada and the Great Lakes Region, but also in scattered locations in other parts of the continent.

Ecology

Found in woods and hedge-banks. Eight varieties of Epipactis helleborine in central Europe (Lower Silesia, Poland) had their nectar studied and they were found to contain naturally occurring oxycodone (as well as another narcotic like opioid) in minute amounts.

Subspecies

A rather long list of names have been proposed for subspecies, varieties and forms of Epipactis helleborine, far too many to list here. This is not unusual for such a widespread species. At present (June 2014) only the following are accorded international acceptance:

References

  1. ^ abcKew World Checklist of Selected Plant Species, Epipactis helleborine
  2. ^ abKew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Epipactis helleborine subsp. helleborine, synonyms
  3. Webb, D.A., Parnell, J. and Doogue,D . 1996. An Irish Flora. Dundalgan Press (W. Tempest) Ltd. Dundalk.ISBN 0-85221-131-7
  4. Altervista Flora Italiana, Elleborine comune, Epipactis helleborine (L.) Crantz
  5. Flora of China v 25 p 180, 火烧兰 huo shao lan, Epipactis helleborine (Linnaeus) Crantz
  6. Flora of North America v 26 p 586, Epipactis helleborine (Linnaeus) Crantz
  7. Biota of North America Program, county range map
  8. “World Checklist of Selected Plant Families”.
  9. Clapham, A.R., Tutin, T.G. and Warburg, E.F. 1968. Excursion Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press ISBN 0 521 04656 4
  10. “Why do pollinators become ‘sluggish’? Nectar chemical constituents from Epipactis helleborine L. Crantz Orchidaceae”. Applied Ecology & Environmental Research. 2005;3(2):29-38. Jakubska A, Przado D, Steininger M, Aniol-Kwiatkowska A, Kadej M.

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