VIOLET HELLEBORINE

Epipactis purpurata

Orchid Family [Orchidaceae]

month8jul month8july month8aug month8sep month8sept

status
statusZnative
 
flower
flower8green
 
flower
flower8white
 
inner
inner8white
 
inner
inner8yellow
 
inner
inner8brown
 
inner
inner8pink
 
morph
morph8zygo
 
petals
petalsZ5 petalsZ2
only 2
type
typeZspiked
 
stem
stem8round
 
rarity
rarityZuncommon
 

27th July 2014, Four Marks, Hampshire. Photo: © Simon Melville
It's not the flowers which are violet, it's the stem! The flowers fairly distinctive and clean-looking and a pale greenish-white with smaller splashes of yellow, brown and sometimes two small pink bosses on the lip. It grows to 60cm with a spike of flowers. The bracts just below each flower are held approximately horizontal and are slightly shorter than the flowers in the top part of the flower spike and slightly longer in the lower part. Each spike can sprout 7 to 40 flowers (on occasion over 100).


27th July 2014, Four Marks, Hampshire. Photo: © Simon Melville
The topmost flower here shows how clean the flowers look with their widely spread sepals (3) and petals (2). There is a pink tinged area on the whitish lip. The stem, in contrast, is dark-purplish (violet?) and the leaves also are rather small and dark-green.


27th July 2014, Four Marks, Hampshire. Photo: © Simon Melville
The expanding ovaries also may be flushed with the same dark-purplish colouring.


27th July 2014, Four Marks, Hampshire. Photo: © Simon Melville
The flowers looking clean and bright. An extended yellow anther hovers high over the whitish open boat-like structure (hypochile) with the short lip (epichile) strongly curved over at its end. This lip has a pale-pink flush in places.


27th July 2014, Four Marks, Hampshire. Photo: © Simon Melville
The topmost flower shows the curved long anther over the hypochile opening, and each side of it two stigmas (your Author thinks).


27th July 2014, Four Marks, Hampshire. Photo: © Simon Melville
The flowers of Violet Helleborine are obstructed from self-pollination by a shield just below the anther called the rostellum preventing the pollinia from falling onto the stigma below (as it can do in species of Epipactis which can self-pollinate). The widening ovary behind each flower has 6 prominent ribs which are washed deep purple and are sparsely hairy.


27th July 2014, Four Marks, Hampshire. Photo: © Simon Melville
The flowers are fairly large, opened widely. The 3 sepals behing are pale-green, the two petals are smaller are washed pink with various other hints of pale green. The lower lip, consisting of hypochile and epichile, is similarly coloured but may also have two granular pink bosses either side of the epichile, which is strongly reflexed over, and short, either triangular or heart-shaped. The bottom of the hypochile may be brownish or pale rose-purple, which can also be seen from without.


27th July 2014, Four Marks, Hampshire. Photo: © Simon Melville


27th July 2014, Four Marks, Hampshire. Photo: © Simon Melville
The stems are shortly hairy.


Not to be semantically confused with : species of Violets (Viola), Water Violet (Hottonia palustris) or Dame's-Violet (Hesperis matronalis) [plants with similar names belonging to differing families].

Easily mistaken for the much more common : Broad-Leaved Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) but that has broader leaves, and the lowest is usually broader than long (whereas it is the other way around in Violet Helleborine.

Is said to hybridize with : Broad-Leaved Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) to produce Epipactis × schulzei, which is frequently reported in areas occupied by Purple Helleborine but the most convincing specimens are to be found at Arnside Knott.

Some similarities to : Narrow-Lipped Helleborine (Epipactis leptochila) and Green-flowered Helleborine (Epipactis phyllanthese) but those two lack a functional viscidium and are able to self-pollinate themselves. The flowers of Violet Helleborine are also pale-green and clean-looking and the stem is deep-purple.

It was thought that the roots are free of mycorrhizal associations and that the plant derives all its energy needs from photosynthesis. But this does not stack up with the plants preferred habitat: dense shade in ancient woodland - and it seems much more likely that mycorrhizal fungi play a significant additional role in its energy requirements.

This is backed up by the rare variety Epipactis helleborine var. rosea, which lacks chlorophyll and any green coloration imparted by that, allowing the whole plant to glow a rosy-pink (the stems of Violet Hellebore are only dark-purple because red and green subtractively give arise to dark-purple). This means that the rosea variety cannot derive nutrition from light and must obtain all its energy needs by other means, which in effect means from associated underground mycorrhizal fungi.

It flowers from mid July to early September typically peaking in early August. They have a slight scent. The nectar is reportedly intoxicating to wasps, making them fall about as if drunk.

Likes to grow in the deep shade inside a denser wood but can quite often also be found wandering along paths, roads and on the edges of woody glades and clearings where the shade is limited. It is on the decline in the UK due to loss of its habitat of ancient woodland . the great storms of 1987 and 1990 which blew over many trees in ancient woodlands, opening the canopy up, has also contributed to its recent large reduction. Deer in ancient woodlands is also taking its toll. It is confined mostly to the South Eastern part of England in a rectangle South of Shropshire and East of Shropshire all the way to the eastern corner of Kent.


  Epipactis purpurata  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Orchidaceae  

Distribution
 family8Orchid family8Orchidaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Epipactis
Epipactis
(Helleborines)

VIOLET HELLEBORINE

Epipactis purpurata

Orchid Family [Orchidaceae]