Epipactis helleborine

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Broad-leaved helleborine
Epipactis helleborine flowers1 220703.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Genus: Epipactis
Species: E. helleborine
Binomial name
Epipactis helleborine
Epipactis helleborine range map.jpg
Distribution in North America
  • Serapias helleborine L.
  • Helleborine helleborine (L.) Druce, invalid name
  • Epipactis latifolia subsp. helleborine (L.) Rivas Goday & Borja, illegitimate name
  • Serapias helleborine var. latifolia L.
  • Serapias latifolia (L.) Huds.
  • Epipactis latifolia (L.) All.
  • Cymbidium latifolium (L.) Sw.
  • Helleborine latifolia (L.) Moench
  • Epipactis consimilis D.Don
  • Epipactis uliginosa Vest
  • Epipactis herbacea Lindl. in J.F.Royle
  • Epipactis macrostachya Lindl.
  • Epipactis ovalis Bab. in J.E.Sm.
  • Epipactis pycnostachys K.Koch
  • Epipactis dalhousiae Wight
  • Epipactis intrusa Lindl.
  • Epipactis gutta-sanguinis Arv.-Touv.
  • Calliphyllon latifolium (L.) Bubani
  • Epipactis atroviridis Linton
  • Helleborine ovalis (Bab.) Druce
  • Helleborine atroviridis (Linton) F.Hanb. in H.C.Watson
  • Serapias consimilis (D.Don) A.A.Eaton
  • Helleborine pycnostachys (K.Koch) Druce
  • Amesia consimilis (D.Don) A.Nelson & J.F.Macbr.
  • Amesia latifolia (L.) A.Nelson & J.F.Macbr.
  • Amesia pycnostachys (K.Koch) A.Nelson & J.F.Macbr.
  • Epipactis squamellosa Schltr.
  • Epipactis yunnanensis Schltr.
  • Epipactis discolor Kraenzl.
  • Epipactis tenii Schltr.
  • Epipactis monticola Schltr.
  • Epipactis nephrocordia Schltr.
  • Amesia discolor (Kraenzl.) Hu
  • Amesia monticola (Schltr.) Hu
  • Amesia squamellosa (Schltr.) Hu
  • Amesia tenii (Schltr.) Hu
  • Amesia yunnanensis (Schltr.) Hu
  • Helleborine varians Soó
  • Amesia longibracteata Schweinf.
  • Helleborine macrostachya (Lindl.) Soó
  • Helleborine nephrocardia (Schltr.) Soó
  • Helleborine squamellosa (Schltr.) Soó
  • Helleborine tenii (Schltr.) Soó
  • Helleborine yunnanensis (Schltr.) Soó
  • Epipactis ohwii Fukuy.
  • Epipactis ligulata Hand.-Mazz.
  • Epipactis magnibracteata C.Schweinf.
  • Epipactis youngiana A.J.Richards & A.F.Porter
  • Epipactis voethii Robatsch
  • Epipactis kezlinekii Batoušek
  • Epipactis zirnsackiana Riech.

Epipactis helleborine, the broad-leaved helleborine, is a terrestrial species of orchid. Its nodding flowers vary from greenish pink to purple, and it prefers shaded woodland environments.


Epipactis helleborine grows to a height of 80 cm and has broad dull green leaves which are strongly ribbed and flat. The flowers are arranged in long drooping racemes with dull green sepals and shorter upper petals. The lower labellum is pale red and is much shorter than the upper petals.[3]


This species is widespread across much of Europe and Asia, from Portugal to China, as well as northern Africa.[1][4][5] In North America, it is widely naturalized mostly in the Northeastern United States, eastern Canada and the Great Lakes Region, but also in scattered locations in other parts of the continent.[6][7][8] In the US it is sometimes referred to as the "weed orchid" or "weedy orchid" and is increasingly considered invasive, in areas including Michigan,[9] Wisconsin[10] and the San Francisco Bay Area.[11]


Found in woods and hedge-banks[12] and often, in Belfast, not far from paths near human activity.[13] It was even seen in Moscow, right in the middle of the city, including quite large populations. Eight varieties of Epipactis helleborine in central Europe (Lower Silesia, Poland) had their nectar studied and they were found to contain naturally occurring oxycodone (as well as another narcotic-like opioid) in minute amounts.[14]


A rather long list of names have been proposed for subspecies, varieties and forms of Epipactis helleborine, far too many to list here.[2] This is not unusual for such a widespread species. At present (June 2014) only the following are accorded international acceptance:[1]

  1. Epipactis helleborine subsp. bithynica (Robatsch) Kreutz - Turkey
  2. Epipactis helleborine subsp. degenii (Szentp. & Mónus) Kreutz - Greece
  3. Epipactis helleborine subsp. densifolia (W.Hahn, Passin & R.Wegener) Kreutz - Turkey
  4. Epipactis helleborine subsp. helleborine - widespread
  5. Epipactis helleborine subsp. latina W.Rossi & E.Klein - Italy, former Yugoslavia
  6. Epipactis helleborine subsp. leutei (Robatsch) Kreutz - Austria, Czech Republic
  7. Epipactis helleborine subsp. levantina Kreutz, Óvári & Shifman - Turkey
  8. Epipactis helleborine subsp. molochina (P.Delforge) Kreutz - Spain
  9. Epipactis helleborine subsp. neerlandica (Verm.) Buttler - Great Britain, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Germany
  10. Epipactis helleborine subsp. orbicularis (K.Richt.) E.Klein - Austria, Czech Republic, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain, Italy, Baltic Republics
  11. Epipactis helleborine subsp. schubertiorum (Bartolo, Pulv. & Robatsch) Kreutz - Italy
  12. Epipactis helleborine var. tangutica (Schltr.) S.C.Chen & G.H.Zhu - China
  13. Epipactis helleborine subsp. tremolsii (Pau) E.Klein - France, Spain, Portugal, Sardinia, Italy, Algeria, Morocco


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