Thursday, November 20, 2014

Epipactis helleborine

This is our only "native" orchid that isn't a native.  It is a European import that has been spreading across the northern United States and southern Canada since the late 1800's.  Here in Washington it is found especially in the western and especially the coastal areas of the state.  It is also variable in size and color, the plants ranging from 30-90 cm and flowers from a plain green to a deep pink or purple.  There are even yellow and albino forms of the species to be found but we have not seen them, though we've looked.

I visited a number of locations this summer to see and photograph the species and found plenty of them, but in some locations, especially the first, they were suffering from a very dry summer and the plants were deformed, the flowers very crowded, and many of the flowers dried up and withered.  In that first set of pictures the last photo is of the green-flowered form, fma. viridis.

July 31
(Seattle Area)

August 6
(Larrabee State park)

August 8
(Larrabee State Park)


  1. Yes, this species is relatively common here. Very interesting "green form" did not know it

    1. We also have a yellow-flowered form, a white-flowered form, an albino form without chlorophyll, and a variegated form. Thanks for commenting and best regards.

  2. Some of those specimen look very odd. Methinks our Epipactis experts would be all over those plants. Especially the fifth from the top looks weird.
    Nice photos of this extremely variable species.
    I did myself not get any photos of them this year, because of the US-trip and the following laziness to get out and take pictures.

    It is also the toughest of our orchids and is found in parks, cities and even parking garages. I still love it a lot. The chlorotic variants are spectecular. Maybe not as attractive as Epipactis purpurea lus. rosea, but still very beautiful. Look out for them!

    This is an example of a chlorotic helleborine from the city of Schwerte, Northrhine-Westphalia, Germany: . Usually they are smaller and weaker than the ordinary forms and do not flower every year. Oh and that place was VERY dark, so I used the in camera flash, making the picture more of a snapshot.

    1. It was a strange year for this species, Martin. By the time they bloomed it had been very dry for weeks and as I noted affected their flowering. That, I think, should be taken into account, but it would not surprise that their have been changes in the species as it has spread across N. America.

      On another note, we do have the chlorotic variety here and I know several locations, but have not found it, probably because they do not flower every year. This is the version I referred to in the post as albino. There's also a white-flowered form reported but I've not seen that either.

      It's one of those species that because of its variability, is always exciting to hunt up. Every year we go to the different locations wondering what we will see. Some of the Coralroots are like that, too, especially C. maculata.