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Plant Description


Epipactis helleborine (L.) Crantz

En: broadleaf helleborine
Fr: épipactis petit-hellébore, épipactis à feuilles larges

Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Click on thumbnail to see larger image.
Epipactis helleborinehab Epipactis helleborineflpl Epipactis helleborineinf Epipactis helleborineflw Epipactis helleborinefrpl


General: A perennial forb; stems erect, to 9 dm tall.

Leaves: Alternate, simple, parallel-veined, sessile and clasping, slightly hairy. Leaf blades lanceolate to ovate, to 10 cm long, upper leaves are progressively shorter; the base tapering gradually to the stem; apex pointed (acute); margins entire.

Flowers: Bisexual, with many flowers arranged in a terminal raceme, 1–2.5 dm long, each flower subtended by a linear to narrowly lanceolate bract. The 3 sepals and 2 lateral petals similar, ovate and sharply pointed (acuminate), 1–1.5 cm long, green to pinkish-purple, often veined with darker green or purple; the lower petal enlarged and modified into a shallow bowl-shaped lip, 1-1.5 cm long, the outer surface greenish-white, the inside surface often glossy chocolate brown or purplish-brown; column short; ovary inferior, twisted. Flowers bloom in mid summer.

Fruit: A dry, smooth capsule with innumerable minute seeds.

Habitat and Range: woods (especially over calcareous soils), ravines, lawns, and disturbed areas. Epipactis helleborine is a Eurasian orchid that was introduced to North America. It is considered an invasive species that is spreading across Ontario. It has been found as far west in Ontario as the Algoma District: in cedar forests on St. Joseph Island and lawns in Sault Ste. Marie.

Internet Images: The Epipactis helleborine webpage from the Gallery of Connecticut Wildflowers, a website of the Connecticut Botanical Society.

Similar Species: When not in flower, the frog orchid, Dactylorhiza viride (formerly known as Coeloglossum viride), may be confused with the broadleaf helleborine. Both have leafy stems and bracts subtending the flowers. However, once the flowers emerge, there is little confusion between the two species. The frog orchid has small green flowers with a narrow, flat, greenish-brown to purplish-brown lip, 5–11 mm long. Compare the broadleaf helleborine to these images of the frog orchid, from the Orchids of Manitoba website.

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