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Green-flowered Helleborine
Epipactis phyllanthes

The Green-flowered Helleborine shows such variability that it has been divided into four described varieties (var. pendula, var. vectensis, var. phyllanthes and var. degenera) - although just three might be more appropriate and would certainly be less confusing. They are briefly described below. Although preferring alkaline soils, this species grows in a range of habitats but is mostly found in or on the edges of lightly shaded woodland. Epipactis phyllanthes also occurs on roadside verges that flank woodland and where there is ivy ground cover. This species is confined to the southern half of the England and Wales and a few scattered locations in Northern Ireland. Green-flowered Helleborine flowers between late June and September. In mainland Europe this orchid is found in Denmark in the north and probably as far south as Spain, although confusion with other species may make some reports suspect. Epipactis phyllanthes is classified as Nationally Scarce in Britain, and it is also protected in Northern Ireland.

Distribution Map Key Features
distribution map

Records for the Green-flowered Helleborine from BSBI are shown on the map with most recent in front. (Hover the mouse over the small map to expand it.)

CLICK HERE to visit the BSBI website page for updated data and maps with separated data for individual record periods.

Plant (typical specimen): 7 to 50cm tall, occasionally to 75cm. The stem, which is thick and flushed purple towards the base, sometimes has sparse short hairs.
Leaves: up to 16 bright-green leaves well spaced along the stem; they are variable in shape and rather small, becoming more bract-like higher up.
Bracts: small and narrow, longer than the flowers at the bottom of the inflorescence becoming smaller and shorter higher up.
Flowers: up to 35, green overall, arranged in a lax one-sided inflorescence that can look crowded at the tip where buds cluster together; they are pendulous but often open fully. The sepals are oval and elongated, pale green with a prominent central rib'. The petals are smaller and whiter. The lip is divided into two sections. The inner section (hypochile) is a dull olive and almost transparent, with the inner 'cup' being light green or bright green. The outer section (epichile) is heart shaped with a pointed tip that is folded backwards, and there are two white bosses at the base separated by a deep groove.

Image Gallery for Green-flowered Helleborine Epipactis phyllanthes

Pollination Taxonomy & Hybrids

Epipactis phyllanthes is self-pollinated, sometimes within the bud.

The specific name phyllanthes may refer to Phillis Woods, where the plants were first collected, or to Greek words meaning 'leaf-like flower'.

Subspecies: none.
Varieties: Epipactis phyllanthes var. phyllanthes has a lip which is not divided and looks more like a petal. Epipactis phyllanthes var. pendula has a large and more typical lip which is divided into two; its flowers open fully. Epipactis phyllanthes var. vectensis is similar to Epipactis var. pendula but the hypochile is smaller and the epichile is distinctly longer than the hypochile. Epipactis phyllanthes var. degenera is an itermediate between Epipactis var. vectensis and Epipactis var. phyllanthes with a small depression in place of a full hypochile and a flattened epichile which may only have very small bosses; its lip is 'waisted' rather than distinctly divided.
Hybrids: none.

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