NARROW-LIPPED HELLEBORINE

Epipactis leptochila

Orchid Family [Orchidaceae]

month8jun month8june month8jul month8july month8aug

status
statusZnative
 
flower
flower8cream
 
inner
inner8yellow
 
morph
morph8zygo
 
petals
petalsZ5 petalsZ2
only 2
type
typeZspiked
 
stem
stem8round
 
rarity
rarityZscarce
 

2nd Aug 2015, Sheepleas SSSI, North Downs, Surrey. Photo: © Ian Howarth
Overall, Narrow-lipped Helleborine has an overall pale-green appearance. A specimen where not all the flowers have yet been pollinated: the ovary (the thicker part of the flower stalk in the case of Helleborines) only swell conspicuously after having been fertilised. The flower then shrivels to a few brown flaps, it's job done. Grows from 15-75cm, but usually between 30-60cm.


27th July 2014, Sheepleas SSSI, North Downs, Surrey. Photo: © Ian Howarth
Flowers from late June to mid-August but mostly in the last 2 weeks of July. The flowers droop ~45° downwards with the long narrow lip (epichile) sticking out at a similar angle rudely like a tongue. Because it does not fold over like in many other Helleborines the tongue just looks long and pointed. The beginning (base) of the flower stalks are greenish-yellow.


2nd Aug 2015, Sheepleas SSSI, North Downs, Surrey. Photo: © Ian Howarth
The upper stem and the ovaries (an extension and broadening of the flower stem in the case of Helleborines) are both hairy with short hairs. Beneath each flower stalk is a long bract.


27th July 2014, Sheepleas SSSI, North Downs, Surrey. Photo: © Ian Howarth
A yellow anther is visible on the lowest flower in this photo.


27th July 2014, Sheepleas SSSI, North Downs, Surrey. Photo: © Ian Howarth


2nd Aug 2015, Sheepleas SSSI, North Downs, Surrey. Photo: © Ian Howarth
Either side of the anther are two red strips (which later turn brownish) but these should not be confused with the tiny red viscidum of Broad-Leaved Helleborine which is absent on Narrow-lipped Helleborine. Absent too is rostellum just below the pollinia which prevents self-pollination in some species of Helleborine, but Narrow-lipped Helleborine, lacking this can pollinate itself.


2nd Aug 2015, Sheepleas SSSI, North Downs, Surrey. Photo: © Ian Howarth


27th July 2014, Sheepleas SSSI, North Downs, Surrey. Photo: © Ian Howarth
The large wide square-ended white flap just below the yellow anther is the stigma, and pollen falling from the pollinia can drop unhindered by the absent rostellum and small viscidium directly onto the stigma - the flower thus pollinating itself. [The otherwise similar Broad-Leaved Helleborine and Violet Helleborine possess a rostellum and a small (white, in this case) viscidum and therefore self-pollination is physically obstructed and this is a useful identifying distinction between these two helleborines and Narrow-lipped Helleborine]. However, Green-flowered Helleborine, like Narrow-lipped Helleborine, is self-pollinated and can resemble Narrow-lipped Helleborine but it is either hairless or almost hairless.


2nd Aug 2015, Sheepleas SSSI, North Downs, Surrey. Photo: © Ian Howarth
It's not really this glossy - it has a pool of water collecting at the bottom of the 'boat'. Bail out! the epichile (lip) is long, and tapers to a blunt point.


Not to be semantically confused with : Hellebores [plants with similar names but which belong to the Buttercup Family [Ranunculaceae]]

It grows in calcareous soils especially on steep wooded slopes where the soil is thin. It only grows in woods, usually ancient woodland, in deep shade for it hates sunshine, even speckled. Usually with Beech trees but sometimes Yew, occasionally with overgrown Ash-Hazel coppice. It is found only south of Shrewsbury, in the Cotswolds, Chilterns, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Scattered populations in Surrey. Hampshire, Dorset, south Wiltshire, north Somerset and Glamorganshire.

It lacks sub-species but there exists a Epipactis leptochila var. cleistogama which is Cleistogamous with drooping flowers that never open and it may now be extinct.

There used to be some considerable confusion over the decades with the exact identities and provenance of the Helleborines now called Dune Helleborine (Epipactis dunensis) formerly called Epipactis leptochila var. dunensis, Tyne Helleborine (Epipactis dunensis ssp. tynensis) formerly called Epipactis leptochila var. tynensis and Narrow-Leaved Helleborine (Epipactis leptochila) but all has been resolved, for now...


  Epipactis leptochila  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Orchidaceae  

Distribution
 family8Orchid family8Orchidaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Epipactis
Epipactis
(Helleborines)

NARROW-LIPPED HELLEBORINE

Epipactis leptochila

Orchid Family [Orchidaceae]