Violet Helleborine - Epipactis purpurata

Scientific Name: Epipactis purpurata.

English Name: Violet Helleborine.

French Name: Epipactis pourpre (= 'purple epipactis')

5 Key Characters:
  • grows in deep shade in cool soil.
  • very rare.
  • a tall plant with small leaves.
  • the stem and the backs of the leaves are washed with violet.
  • the flowers are pale green, white and pink.
Lookalikes: Broad-leafed Helleborine E. helleborine subsp helleborine, which has flowers with deeper colours, produced a fortnight earlier. Mueller's Helleborine E. muelleri, which is also not quite as pale and flowers even earlier.

Habitat: shady forests of beech, oak and hornbeam on deep, cool soil, calcareous to slightly acidic. In the Touraine it favours shady beech and hornbeam forests with neutral or slightly alkaline soils. They have a long vertical rhizome and can produce multiple leaf rosettes from a single rhizome. Those that grow in the sunnier spots are a green form, in the shadier spots the plants use their fungal partners to assimilate nutrients and the plants are a purple form. In rare cases, in deep shade, the plants are pink.

Flowering Period: July-August. The base of the labellum forms a cup which holds nectar, attracting various common species of wasp (Common Wasp Vespula vulgaris, Red Wasp V. rufas, Cuckoo Wasp V. austriaca, Tree Wasp Dolichovespula sylvestris). If the flower isn't visited by an insect, the nectar dries up and the flower self-fertilizes.

Status: Very rare and protected in the Touraine - only found at Nouzilly, the forest of Loches (where there are only 20 or so plants) and Marray, in small numbers. Very rare in the Brenne.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:

The site in the ForĂȘt de Loches, near the Chapelle du Liget, where Violet Helleborines occur in the dappled shade of hornbeams.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice Susan...
    but the sidebar is still making motorbike noises.
    This works, however, if I ignore "vmvmvvvm" and just select "Loire Valley Nature"...
    but do you still want the "Close this window" buttons... they work fine, but Loire Valley Nature is no more.