Cephalanthera rubra - Red Helleborine

Scientific Name: Cephalanthera rubra. 'Kephale' is Greek for head, and 'anthera' is botanical Latin for the part of the flower which contains the pollen, so Cephalanthera are characterized by pollen recepticles that look like a head. 'Rubra' is from the Latin for 'red', a reference to the flower colour.

English Name: Red Helleborine.

French Name: Céphalanthère rouge or Elléborine rouge (ie Red Cephalanthera or Red Helleborine).

5 Key Characters:
  • Flowers strong rose pink
  • Usually single isolated plants
  • Tongue like lower petal is sharply pointed
  • Quite large flowers that open wide
  • Long narrow green leaves, spaced well apart and set alternately on one side and then the other of the stem
Lookalikes: Unmistakeable.

Habitat: Hillside ledges, densely to semi-shaded forest and forest edges, well drained calcareous soil, warm forests, especially with Downy Oak and usually Juniper. Beech is rare in the Touraine Loire Valley and Brenne, and Red Helleborine is not associated with it in this area. Where you find one species of Cephalanthera sp you are likely to find the other two.

Flowering Period: May-June-July.

Status: Protected and rare in the area covered by this website, but can be seen within 5km of Preuilly. It is locally common and conspicuous on limestone ridges in the Claise Valley around Chaumussay and in the Vienne Valley near Panzoult. It is rare in the Brenne and Sologne. All the significant colonies are on privately owned land. These sites are not managed for conservation, but are managed with a traditional low intensity approach which means the orchid colonies appear to be stable. We are currently assisting in research on the local colonies, as part of a project to re-establish the species in England.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:

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