Orchid out of place

Dune helleborine (Epipactis dunensis)

A trip out yesterday (by Duncan) near Ebchester on the border of Northumberland and County Durham turned up an unexpected find.  Dune helleborine (Epipactis dunensis) is usually to be found on the coast, as the name would suggest, or locally along the river Tyne on heavy metal contaminated areas under trees.  This location was also under birch but away from the river.  It was a new section of Northumberland for this plant but apparently it is turning up on old coal workings elsewhere around the country.  This may be a case that no-one has looked before in these places or it may, somehow, be colonising these areas.  Its name is certainly becoming more and more inappropriate!


About thehutts

The Hutt Family from Northumberland
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4 Responses to Orchid out of place

  1. A good bit of observation of a not exactly obvious plant! Presumably helleborine is a small hellebore? It looks similar to the Lenten lily hellebore, but smaller flower.

  2. thehutts says:

    Helleborine is an orchid and not related closely at all to a hellebore. They are at very different ends of the plant evolutionary tree!

  3. John Hartshorne, Otterburn says:

    Yes, in my experience it is expected at the coast – the classic site being on Holy Island – but crops up inland too. I’ve found that it is less floriferous and tends to be more etiolated under shade. In dune slacks it is more compact and clumped – I believe it is a vegetative reproducer too. Maybe these inland sites are seeded and less vegetative spread occurs? What did you think about its distribution?

    • thehutts says:

      The distribution on the site would suggest that it had spread by seed. It is living adjacent to broad-leaved helleborine which provides an interesting possibility of hybridisation.

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