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.