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Dune Helleborine

Epipactis dunensis

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Beaches, grassland, heathland, sand dunes, scrub, seaside, woodland.

Green, 5 petals
Small pale yellow or green flowers with pinkish lips. The flowers never fully open and are therefore often described as being dull. Wind pollinated.
A capsule filled with several tiny seeds.
Leaves appear in pairs and are yellow to light green. The Dune Helleborine has a tendency to grow mainly on dune slacks inside pine plantations or willow scrub. It is a rare orchid species which is endemic to Britain.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Epipactis dunensis, commonly known as "Dune helleborine" is a species of herbaceous perennial orchid that is native to Europe, specifically in the coastal dune habitats, coastal heath and scrub. It typically grows to be about 20-60 centimeters tall, with large, dark-green leaves that can reach up to 20 centimeters in length. It has small, greenish-white or pinkish-brown flowers that bloom in the late summer or early fall. The flowers are usually small and held in clusters on tall stalks.

Epipactis dunensis is often found in sandy habitats and dune grassland, it prefers well-drained soils, it is tolerant of dry conditions and cold temperatures, and it is hardy and 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.


Epipactis dunensis, commonly known as the Dune Helleborine, is a species of orchid that is native to the sandy dunes and coastal grasslands of Europe. This plant has gained popularity among orchid enthusiasts due to its unique appearance and rarity.


The Dune Helleborine is a medium-sized orchid, growing up to 60 cm in height. It has a single stem with green leaves that are lance-shaped and arranged in a spiral pattern around the stem. The flowers of the Dune Helleborine are the most striking feature of this orchid. They are greenish-yellow in color, with a reddish-purple lip, and are arranged in a loose cluster at the top of the stem. The flowers have a distinctive shape, with a broad, flattened lip that is fringed with fine hairs.


As its name suggests, the Dune Helleborine is typically found in sandy dunes and coastal grasslands. It prefers well-drained, sandy soils and requires plenty of sunlight to grow. This orchid is native to a relatively small range in Europe, including the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany.

Conservation Status

The Dune Helleborine is classified as a rare and endangered species in many countries due to habitat loss and fragmentation caused by human activities. In the United Kingdom, it is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, which makes it illegal to uproot or destroy the plant. Conservation efforts are underway to protect this orchid and its habitat, including the creation of protected areas and habitat restoration projects.


The Dune Helleborine is a challenging orchid to grow and is best left to experienced orchid enthusiasts. It requires well-draining, sandy soil and plenty of sunlight. The plant should be watered regularly but not excessively, and fertilization should be kept to a minimum. In cultivation, the Dune Helleborine can take several years to reach maturity and produce flowers.

In conclusion, the Dune Helleborine is a rare and unique orchid that is highly valued by orchid enthusiasts. Its distinctive appearance and habitat make it a fascinating plant to study and admire. However, it is important to remember that this orchid is endangered and requires protection and conservation efforts to ensure its survival.

More Information

The Dune Helleborine has been the subject of much research and study by botanists and conservationists. One area of interest is the plant's relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. Like many orchids, the Dune Helleborine relies on a specific type of fungus to provide nutrients and aid in its growth. Research has shown that the Dune Helleborine forms a close relationship with fungi in the genus Tulasnella, which are found in the soil surrounding the plant's roots.

Another area of research is the genetic diversity of the Dune Helleborine. A study conducted in the United Kingdom found that the species has a low level of genetic diversity, which could have negative implications for its ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions. This highlights the importance of conservation efforts to protect the remaining populations of the Dune Helleborine and preserve genetic diversity.

In addition to its ornamental value and ecological importance, the Dune Helleborine has also been used in traditional medicine. The plant contains compounds that have been used to treat a variety of ailments, including inflammation, fever, and pain. However, it should be noted that the use of the Dune Helleborine for medicinal purposes is not supported by modern scientific research and should be approached with caution.

The Dune Helleborine is a fascinating plant that has played an important role in the history of botany. In the early 20th century, it was one of several species of orchids that were studied by the British botanist J.B. Farmer. Farmer was interested in the evolutionary relationships between orchids and their pollinators, and he used the Dune Helleborine as a model organism to study the coevolution of plants and insects.

Today, the Dune Helleborine remains a valuable tool for studying the biology and ecology of orchids. In recent years, researchers have used molecular techniques to study the genetic diversity, population structure, and reproductive biology of this species. These studies have shed light on the factors that contribute to the survival and persistence of the Dune Helleborine in its unique coastal habitat.

The conservation of the Dune Helleborine is also an important issue. The loss of habitat due to development and other human activities is a major threat to this species, and conservation efforts are needed to protect the remaining populations. In addition to habitat conservation, there are also efforts underway to propagate the Dune Helleborine in cultivation and reintroduce it to areas where it has been lost.

One of the unique features of the Dune Helleborine is its adaptation to a specific type of habitat. This plant is found primarily in coastal dune systems, where it has evolved to survive in an environment that is characterized by shifting sands, salt spray, and strong winds. In these harsh conditions, the Dune Helleborine has developed a number of strategies to conserve water and nutrients, including thick leaves and a specialized root system.

Another interesting aspect of the Dune Helleborine is its pollination biology. Like many orchids, this species relies on a specific type of insect to pollinate its flowers. In the case of the Dune Helleborine, the pollinator is the solitary bee Andrena lapponica. This bee is attracted to the flower by its scent and color, and it collects pollen from the anthers while feeding on the nectar. As the bee moves from flower to flower, it transfers the pollen to the stigma, fertilizing the plant.

The conservation of the Dune Helleborine is a complex issue that involves a number of factors. In addition to habitat loss, this species is threatened by a number of other factors, including climate change, invasive species, and overcollection. To address these threats, conservation efforts are needed that involve a combination of habitat restoration, population monitoring, and public education.

Overall, the Dune Helleborine is a remarkable plant that has much to offer in terms of ecological significance and aesthetic value. Its unique adaptations to its coastal habitat, its fascinating pollination biology, and its conservation challenges make it a plant of great interest to scientists, conservationists, and gardeners alike. As we continue to learn more about this species and work to protect it, we can ensure that the beauty and ecological significance of the Dune Helleborine will be appreciated for generations to come.