Epipactis helleborine (Helleborine)
|Also known as:||Broad-leaved Helleborine|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade; moist to dry; disturbed soil, deciduous woods, woodland edges, along streams, roadsides|
|Bloom season:||July - August|
|Plant height:||1 to 3 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: UPL|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Up to 50 irregular, stalked flowers are loosely to densely arranged in a spike-like raceme at the top of the stem. Flowers are ½ to ¾ inch across, the lower petal forming a bowl that is constricted near the tip end; the 2 lateral petals are broadly egg-shaped with pointed tips, flaring out above the yellowish center column. Petal color is rather variable and ranges from pale yellow or green to pink to deep reddish purple, usually streaked with darker purple veins. 3 light green sepals, also often with purplish streaks, and as long as or longer than the petals, form a triangle behind the flower. A leaf-like bract is at the base of each flower stalk. The flower cluster first emerges drooping, becoming erect as the buds mature.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are 1½ to 6 inches long, ½ to 3 inches wide, oval to lance-elliptic with pointed tips, toothless and hairless with prominent parallel veins and slightly wavy edges, and clasping the stem. The lowest leaf is smaller than those above it, then they gradually become smaller and proportionately narrower as they ascend the stem, reducing to bracts in the flower cluster. The stem is light green and covered in short hairs.
This is the first non-native orchid to be found in the wild in Minnesota and is listed as an invasive species in Wisconsin, where I've seen thousands of plants carpeting a forest floor in Door county. This is definitely one to watch, and likely best eradicated before it has a chance to become invasive here. While the leaves are similar to our native Lady's-slipper orchids, the flowers are distinctly different than any of our natives. A special thanks goes to Ken Arndt and Critical Connections Ecological Services for guiding us to the first known location of this species in Washington County.
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Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken on private property in Scandia, Washington County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?