Epipactis helleborine (Helleborine)

Plant Info
Also known as: Broad-leaved Helleborine
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
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):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] 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: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] 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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More photos

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?

Posted by: Kelsey - Hennepin county
on: 2015-07-29 19:14:34

I work for a small restoration company and we found a very small population of this plant on a restoration easement in Minnetonka

Posted by: Suzy - Rochester
on: 2016-07-17 10:37:47

Found in my planting beds...took a very long time to bloom and only a few got that far due to deer or rabbits. Sad to discover that my first orchid needs to be eradicated.

Posted by: Holly E - Chaska
on: 2017-07-26 15:27:16

Saw quite a few of these at the Arboretum, along the start of the Ridge Trail just east of the Snyder Building. Wondering if I should go ahead and remove them (with the blessing of Arb staff, of course).

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-07-26 20:04:11

Holly, the Arb knows about the helleborine and has begun spraying it. Hopefully they'll get it taken care of.

Posted by: Mark Kjolhaug - Freeman Park, Shorewood
on: 2018-07-24 08:49:38

Found a single flowering plant along trail in the woods. Is there anything native I could confuse with Helleborine?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-07-24 17:39:44

Mark, there are a number of native woodland orchids with a spike-like raceme but none have quite the same coloration or flower shape.

Posted by: Helen Foster - Falcon Heights, University Grove
on: 2019-07-19 14:58:03

In 2009, I found one in a garden bed on my property. This week (a decade later), I found another in a very distant bed from the first. My first orchids and they're not only alien but also invasive. Sigh!

Posted by: Bobby H. - Cass Co. Ottertail Point
on: 2020-01-22 06:50:53

In August 2019 I unexpectedly observed numerous plants in bloom in the Ottertail Point area on the north end of Leech Lake. It was rather alarming considering the remoteness of the location.

Posted by: Mark Kjolhaug - Shorewood
on: 2020-06-26 13:48:14

I have identified this plant again this year in a couple of locations in Shorewood. Is this something the DNR tracks? Is there a reporting contact? Thank you.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-06-26 14:58:59

Mark, no one is tracking this plant, though they should. BTW, the MN Dept of Ag is the agency generally in charge of weeds, rather than the DNR. I suggest reporting the sightings yourself at EDDMapS, where many weeds in the state are tracked. It may get someone's attention.

Posted by: Dale Blount - Itasca County, near Bowstring Lake
on: 2020-07-26 07:45:40

Visiting a friend who took me around his undeveloped property. Found 12 plants in two locations approximately 50 yards apart. Both locations within 10 yards of road.

Posted by: Amanda - Minnetonka
on: 2020-07-30 14:33:57

It has been found at 2 parks in Minnetonka

Posted by: Harvey Tjader - Cass County
on: 2021-07-02 20:55:11

Found one plant in a northern hardwood forest on Sugar Point on the east side of Leech Lake. We dug it up.

Posted by: Anne Carpenter - Lakeville
on: 2021-07-18 20:29:36

We found one stalk growing in a clump of day lilies in our garden. It is about to bloom, but so is the daylily. Should we cut off the flowers and try to remove the helleborine after the lily blooms? I take it we don't want this in our yard!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-07-19 08:54:01

Anne, you are correct you do not want this in your yard. Pull it out now, or at least do not let it go to seed.

Posted by: Linda Ganje - Chaska
on: 2022-06-14 14:20:19

Will deer and rabbits eat this plant? Maybe that will help control it in wild settings.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-06-14 14:29:20

Linda, deer and rabbits have not put much of a dent in the infestations in Door County, Wisconsin. In any case, it would be unwise to depend on herbivory to control its spread.

Posted by: Paul Bockenstedt - Woodbury
on: 2022-06-30 15:30:14

Ran across a small population in a public right-of-way in late June 2022. Plants will be removed before seed set. I'm familiar with this invasive orchid from work in northeastern Illinois. I was hoping I would never run into it in Minnesota...

Posted by: Alan Straka - Cascade Township
on: 2022-07-03 16:14:23

I have in the past discovered small plants in my yard and waited eagerly for them to flower only to have them eaten by a deer or rabbit. None of them ever came back. Found a large plant today (July 2022) that should flower soon amongst my wild strawberries. As soon as I can get a few photos, I will pull it up.

Posted by: Mary Mueller - Orono, close to Mound
on: 2022-07-09 14:14:10

I spotted this several years ago down the road on the edge of the woods. Since then the last 3 years I have been working on eradicating it from my woods, gardens and especially the area's which are native plant sanctuaries. It has come back in high numbers. I cut the flower heads off before they flower and then dig out, making a wide circle around the plants and going deep. It's definitely tenacious with a root going straight down and then roots circling outward under the soil from the base of the plant.

Posted by: Jonny L - Long Lake
on: 2023-07-08 17:35:59

There are quite a few of these in Wolsfeld Woods SNA in Long Lake, MN.

Posted by: Stanley Gagner - Minnetonka
on: 2023-07-24 20:54:35

Found these at my grandparents house on the border between Minnetonka and Deephaven a few years ago. The clump on their property is getting bigger and we should probably spray it. The fact it is an orchid does give it some charisma that other invasives don't have, but I shouldn't let that cloud my judgement.

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