Epipactis muelleri - Mueller's Helleborine

Scientific Name:
Epipactis muelleri. The name comes from the term used by an ancient Greek naturalist to indicate a plant which is similar to the helleborine orchids (Cephalanthera spp) because of the shape of its leaves; and after the 19th century German botanist Müller.

English Name: Mueller's Helleborine.

French Name: Epipactis de Müller.

5 Key Characters:
  • pairs of narrow pointed leaves.
  • labellum (lower petal) whitish (occasionally with a deep pink tinge), the base of the labellum reddish brown.
  • can self-pollinate and the pollenia are not a sticky mass.
  • the lower part of the labellum triangular, wider than it is long, often with a light green central stripe and curling back to a point.
  • difficult to spot if growing in shady woodland, although the flowers are more fully open in the shade.
Lookalikes: Epipactis helleborine. E. muelleri can be distinguished from E. helleborine by its yellowy green colour and its long thin wavy edged leaves. E. helleborine is a stronger green and has broad leaves.

Habitat: Full sun to part shade, likes warm locations, dry to cool calcareous soil. Grows in grass, heaths, often on the edges of woods or woodland clearings, steep banks, short grass with junipers.

Flowering Period: end June-July (earlier than E. helleborine). The flowers have a generous nectar receptacle formed by the base of the labellum (the epichile). With exposure to the air and heat, a yeast can act on the nectar, transforming it into alcohol. Some botanists believe the plant turns visiting insects into alcoholics. Because they are drunk, they can't clean off the pollen they've picked up when drinking the nectar, and because they are addicted to the alcoholic nectar, they spend a long time in a colony of orchids, thus pollinating the whole population.

Status: Uncommon in Vienne (86) and Indre et Loire (37), rare in Indre (36). Can be seen within 5km of Preuilly-sur-Claise and is moderately well distributed south of the Loire in the Touraine, in the Vienne, Indre, Indrois and Claise River valleys. This species is quite rare and under-recorded in France as a whole.

Recorded by Loire Valley Nature:

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