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Dark Red Helleborine

Epipactis atrorubens

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
80 centimetres tall
Hedgerows, riverbanks, roadsides, rocky places, waterside, woodland.

Red, 5 petals
Flowers are a distinctive, uniformly-coloured wine red or dark red. Insect-pollinated, in particular by bees.
A nodding capsule with minute, powdery seeds.
The leaves appear in ranks of two up the stem and are oval, alternate, stalkless and purplish with parallel veins. The smallest leaves are at the top of the plant.
Flowers are a little bit fragrant.
Other Names:
Purple-brown Helleborine, Royal Helleborine.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Epipactis atrorubens, commonly known as "Dark-red helleborine" or "Purple-brown helleborine" is a species of herbaceous perennial orchid that is native to Europe, including the British Isles. It typically grows to be about 30-80 centimeters tall, with large, dark-green leaves that can reach up to 20 centimeters in length. It has small, dark-red or purplish-brown flowers that bloom in the late spring or early summer. The flowers are usually small and held in clusters on tall stalks.

Epipactis atrorubens is often found in damp, shaded habitats such as woodlands, hedgerows and riverbanks, it prefers moist and well-drained soils. It is tolerant of cold temperatures and hardy, it can tolerate temperatures down to -20°C. It is also used in traditional medicine for the treatment of various diseases such as fever, cold, and headache. The plant is not toxic and it is protected species in some countries.


Dark Red Helleborine, or Epipactis atrorubens, is a striking and rare orchid species that is native to Europe. It is a plant of great beauty and intrigue, with its dark red flowers and unique morphology making it a sought-after plant for orchid enthusiasts and botanists alike.

The Dark Red Helleborine is a perennial plant that grows to a height of up to 80cm. It has a stout stem, which is covered in fine hairs and is topped with a dense spike of flowers. The flowers themselves are around 2-3cm in diameter, and are a deep crimson red colour with a distinctive lip. The lip of the flower is covered in fine hairs, and has a pattern of darker red spots, which give it a unique appearance.

The Dark Red Helleborine is a member of the Orchidaceae family, which is one of the largest plant families in the world. Orchids are renowned for their beauty and diversity, with over 25,000 different species known to science. However, despite their popularity, many orchid species are threatened by habitat loss and other human activities, making the conservation of these plants a critical concern.

The Dark Red Helleborine is no exception, and is considered to be a rare and endangered plant species. It is found in a limited number of locations throughout Europe, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the Czech Republic. In many of these countries, the Dark Red Helleborine is protected by law, and conservation efforts are underway to ensure its survival.

One of the main threats to the Dark Red Helleborine is habitat loss. The plant requires specific growing conditions, including a damp, shaded habitat, which is often impacted by human activities such as logging, development, and agricultural practices. In addition to habitat loss, the Dark Red Helleborine is also threatened by illegal collecting and poaching, which can further impact its population numbers.

Despite these challenges, there is hope for the Dark Red Helleborine. Conservation efforts, including habitat restoration and public education campaigns, are helping to raise awareness of this unique plant species and its importance for the environment. In addition, research into the biology and genetics of the Dark Red Helleborine is helping scientists to better understand the plant and its needs, which can inform conservation efforts and improve its chances for survival.

The Dark Red Helleborine has a unique morphology that sets it apart from other orchid species. Its flowers are pollinated by insects, including bees and moths, which are attracted to the plant's sweet nectar and distinctive scent. Once the flowers are pollinated, they produce seeds that are dispersed by the wind.

The Dark Red Helleborine also has a symbiotic relationship with a type of fungi known as mycorrhizae. These fungi attach themselves to the roots of the plant and help to absorb nutrients from the soil. In return, the plant provides the fungi with carbon compounds that they need to grow.

One interesting feature of the Dark Red Helleborine is that it is able to self-pollinate, which means that it can reproduce without the need for an external pollinator. This is an adaptation that allows the plant to continue to produce offspring even in situations where pollinators are scarce.

Conservation efforts for the Dark Red Helleborine include habitat restoration and protection, as well as research into the plant's biology and genetics. In addition, public education campaigns are helping to raise awareness of the importance of orchid conservation and the threats facing these plants.

There are also a number of organizations and groups dedicated to the conservation of orchids, including the Orchid Conservation Coalition, the Orchid Specialist Group, and the European Orchid Council. These organizations work to promote the conservation of orchids and their habitats, and to raise awareness of the importance of these plants for the environment.

The Dark Red Helleborine is not only a beautiful plant, but it also plays an important role in the environment. Orchids are often referred to as "indicator species," meaning that they can provide important information about the health of an ecosystem. As sensitive plants, they are often the first to be affected by environmental changes, such as pollution or climate change. By monitoring the health of orchid populations, scientists can gain valuable insights into the overall health of an ecosystem and identify potential threats to biodiversity.

In addition to their ecological importance, orchids also have cultural significance. They have been used for centuries in traditional medicine and as ornamental plants, and their beauty has inspired art and literature throughout history. Unfortunately, the demand for orchids has also led to illegal collecting and trade, which can have devastating effects on wild populations.

To combat this issue, many countries have implemented laws and regulations to protect orchids from over-harvesting and trade. These regulations can include restrictions on the collection and sale of wild orchids, as well as the establishment of protected areas where orchids can thrive without interference.

The Dark Red Helleborine is native to Europe and can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, grasslands, and rocky slopes. However, the plant's natural habitats have been severely impacted by human activities such as habitat destruction, overgrazing, and urbanization. These threats have resulted in the decline of the plant's populations and range, making it a threatened species.

To address these threats, conservation efforts for the Dark Red Helleborine have focused on habitat restoration and protection. This can include measures such as reforestation, the creation of buffer zones around habitats, and the removal of invasive species. These efforts can help to restore and protect the plant's natural habitats, allowing it to continue to thrive in the wild.

In addition to habitat restoration, conservation efforts have also focused on research and education. Scientists are studying the biology and genetics of the Dark Red Helleborine to better understand its needs and the threats it faces. This research can help inform conservation strategies and ensure that they are effective in protecting the plant.

Public education campaigns are also raising awareness of the importance of orchid conservation and the threats facing these plants. This can include outreach to local communities, the establishment of educational programs and exhibits, and the use of social media and other digital platforms to reach a wider audience.

Finally, partnerships between governments, conservation organizations, and local communities are essential for the success of conservation efforts for the Dark Red Helleborine and other threatened species. By working together, these groups can share knowledge and resources, coordinate efforts, and ensure that conservation strategies are sustainable and effective.

In conclusion, the conservation of the Dark Red Helleborine is a complex and ongoing effort that requires a range of strategies and partnerships. By restoring and protecting habitats, conducting research, raising awareness, and working together, we can help ensure the survival of this unique and beautiful orchid species.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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