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Green-flowered Helleborine

Epipactis phyllanthes

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Hedgerows, riverbanks, sand dunes, scrub, waterside, woodland.

Green, 5 petals
An apple green, slender flower spike. Flowers are very drooping and have a pale green lip which is frequently flushed with pink. Up to 40 flowers per plant.
A many-seeded fruit capsule.
Grass-green, pointed and well spaced along the stems. The leaves are longer than broad and have prominent veins that run parallel to the midrib. A perennial which favours growing in shaded beech or birch woodland next to water on bare ground.
Other Names:
Leafy Helleborine.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Epipactis phyllanthes, commonly known as "Leafy helleborine" is a species of herbaceous perennial orchid that is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It typically grows to be about 30-60 centimeters tall, with large, dark-green leaves that can reach up to 20 centimeters in length. It has small, greenish-white or yellow-green flowers that bloom in the late summer or early fall. The flowers are usually small and held in clusters on tall stalks.

Epipactis phyllanthes 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 but like other species of orchids it is protected by law in some countries, and it is important to keep in mind that removing or digging up wild orchids is illegal in many places. This orchid is considered as a rare species, it is protected by law in some countries, and it is important to keep in mind that removing or digging up wild orchids is illegal in many places.


The Green-flowered Helleborine (Epipactis phyllanthes) is a beautiful and fascinating orchid species that is found in parts of Europe and Asia. This striking plant is known for its unusual greenish-yellow flowers that can be found growing in damp woodland areas, grasslands, and scrubland. In this blog, we will take a closer look at the Green-flowered Helleborine, exploring its physical characteristics, habitat, and ecological importance.

Physical Characteristics

The Green-flowered Helleborine is a perennial herb that typically grows to between 20-60 cm in height. The plant has a slender stem that is often unbranched and bears narrow, lance-shaped leaves that can be up to 20 cm long. The flowers of the Green-flowered Helleborine are what make this orchid species so distinctive. The blooms are typically greenish-yellow in color and have a waxy appearance. The flowers are arranged in a dense spike that can contain between 10 and 30 individual flowers. The flowers themselves are about 1-2 cm in diameter and have a sweet, vanilla-like fragrance that is most noticeable in the early evening.


The Green-flowered Helleborine is a shade-loving plant that is typically found growing in damp woodland areas, scrubland, and grasslands. This orchid species can be found throughout much of Europe and Asia, including parts of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, and Iran. The Green-flowered Helleborine prefers calcareous soils and is often found growing in areas where there is a lot of limestone or chalk.

Ecological Importance

The Green-flowered Helleborine is an important plant species for a number of reasons. One of the primary ecological roles of this orchid is as a pollinator attractant. The flowers of the Green-flowered Helleborine are highly attractive to a wide range of insects, including bees, wasps, and butterflies. These insects are attracted to the flowers by their sweet fragrance and nectar. As the insects move from flower to flower, they inadvertently transfer pollen from the male reproductive organs to the female reproductive organs of the plant, facilitating pollination.

Another important ecological role of the Green-flowered Helleborine is as a food source for a number of different animals. The leaves of the plant are eaten by a variety of herbivorous insects, while the nectar and pollen of the flowers are consumed by a range of nectar-feeding insects. Additionally, some small mammals have been known to eat the tubers of the Green-flowered Helleborine as a source of food.

In addition to its ecological importance, the Green-flowered Helleborine also has cultural significance. This orchid species has been used in traditional medicine for a range of ailments, including headaches, rheumatism, and fever. Additionally, the Green-flowered Helleborine has been used in some cultures as a love potion or aphrodisiac.

The Green-flowered Helleborine is a species that is considered to be of conservation concern in some parts of its range. Habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation are the primary threats facing this plant, as well as over-collection by orchid enthusiasts. In some areas, the Green-flowered Helleborine has become rare or endangered due to these threats, and as a result, conservation efforts are underway to protect this species.

One such conservation effort is the creation of protected areas and nature reserves where the Green-flowered Helleborine can grow and thrive in safety. In addition, some organizations and individuals are working to raise awareness about the importance of protecting this and other orchid species, in order to promote conservation efforts more broadly.

In terms of cultivation, the Green-flowered Helleborine is considered to be a challenging plant to grow in a garden setting. This orchid requires a specific set of growing conditions, including shade, moist soil, and a specific type of mycorrhizal fungus in the soil that helps it to absorb nutrients. As a result, the Green-flowered Helleborine is not commonly cultivated by gardeners, and is primarily enjoyed in its natural habitat.

One interesting feature of the Green-flowered Helleborine is its association with mycorrhizal fungi. Mycorrhizal fungi form symbiotic relationships with plants, providing them with nutrients while receiving sugars and other compounds in return. Many orchid species have specific mycorrhizal associations, and the Green-flowered Helleborine is no exception.

The mycorrhizal fungi associated with the Green-flowered Helleborine are thought to play an important role in the plant's ability to survive in nutrient-poor environments. These fungi help the plant to absorb essential nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from the soil. Without these fungi, the Green-flowered Helleborine would struggle to grow and thrive in its natural habitat.

Another interesting aspect of the Green-flowered Helleborine is its hybridization with other orchid species. Hybridization occurs when two different species of orchids cross-pollinate and produce offspring with traits from both parent plants. In the case of the Green-flowered Helleborine, there are several known hybrids with other Epipactis species, including the Violet Helleborine (Epipactis purpurata) and the Broad-leaved Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine).

Hybridization can be both a positive and negative force for orchid conservation. On the one hand, hybrids can be more adaptable to changing environmental conditions and may have traits that make them more resilient to threats such as habitat loss and fragmentation. On the other hand, hybridization can lead to the loss of genetic diversity, as well as the breakdown of important ecological relationships between orchids and their pollinators and mycorrhizal fungi.

In conclusion, the Green-flowered Helleborine is a fascinating and important plant species with a range of interesting features and associations. From its mycorrhizal relationships to its hybridization with other orchids, this plant species provides a window into the complex and interconnected nature of ecosystems. By working to protect and conserve the Green-flowered Helleborine and other orchid species, we can help to preserve the natural world and ensure that these beautiful and unique plants continue to thrive.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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