Open the Advanced Search

Narrow-leaved Helleborine

Cephalanthera longifolia

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.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

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

White, 5 petals
Pure white, bell-shaped flowers arranged in a spike. Yellow on the inside. Similar to White Helleborine (Cephalanthera damasonium) but with more open flowers which are pure white, not off-white. Also, the flowers of Narrow-leaved Helleborine do not fully open, unlike those of White Helleborine. 1 stamen. 2 stigmas.
An erect dry capsule which produces many dust-like seeds.
A perennial plant with dark green, long and narrow, tapering leaves which appear on alternating sides going up the stem. The leaves are drooping at their tips. The leaves are longer and narrower than those of the similar looking White Helleborine.
Other Names:
Long-leaved Helleborine, Sword-leaved Helleborine, White Lady.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Cephalanthera longifolia, also known as the long-leaved helleborine, is a species of orchid that is native to Europe and Asia. It is a perennial herb that grows to a height of about 20–60 cm. The flowers are typically white or creamy-white in color and bloom from June to August. The plant prefers damp, shady habitats such as woods, meadows, and river banks. It is considered endangered in some parts of Europe and is protected by law in some countries.


Narrow-leaved Helleborine, also known by its scientific name Cephalanthera longifolia, is a beautiful and rare orchid that can be found in various parts of Europe and Asia. This elegant plant is highly valued by botanists and nature enthusiasts, as it is both rare and visually striking. In this blog, we will delve deeper into the characteristics, habitat, and cultural significance of the Narrow-leaved Helleborine.

Physical Characteristics

Narrow-leaved Helleborine is a perennial herbaceous plant that can grow up to 60 cm tall. It has a slender and erect stem, which is green and unbranched. The leaves are narrow and elongated, with a length ranging between 5 to 15 cm, and are arranged alternately along the stem. The flowers of the Narrow-leaved Helleborine are highly ornamental and appear in clusters at the top of the stem. Each flower has six white petals that are approximately 15 to 20 mm long. The central column of the flower is a vibrant pink, which gives the flower a striking and unique appearance.


The Narrow-leaved Helleborine grows in a wide range of habitats, including deciduous and coniferous forests, meadows, and grasslands. It can be found in various parts of Europe, including the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Spain, as well as parts of Asia, including Japan and Korea. The plant prefers moist and shaded areas, and it is often found growing near streams or in damp soil. Due to its preference for shaded areas, it is often found growing under the canopy of larger trees or shrubs.

Cultural Significance

The Narrow-leaved Helleborine has been highly valued throughout history for its medicinal properties. It was commonly used by ancient Greeks and Romans as a remedy for various ailments, including fever, headaches, and nervous disorders. In traditional Chinese medicine, the plant is used to treat digestive problems, as well as to improve circulation and promote overall health.

The plant has also been used in folklore and mythology. In some cultures, the plant is associated with love and fertility, and it was believed that carrying the plant could attract love and romantic relationships. In other cultures, the plant was believed to have protective properties, and it was used to ward off evil spirits.

Conservation Status

Despite its cultural and ecological significance, the Narrow-leaved Helleborine is considered a rare and endangered species. The plant is threatened by habitat loss, as many of the forests and meadows where it grows are being destroyed due to human activities. Additionally, the plant is often illegally collected for its ornamental value, which further exacerbates its already vulnerable status. It is important to protect and conserve the habitats where the Narrow-leaved Helleborine grows to ensure that future generations can appreciate its beauty and value.

More Information

Narrow-leaved Helleborine is a fascinating plant that has captured the attention of botanists and nature enthusiasts around the world. Here are a few more interesting facts about this rare and beautiful orchid:

  1. The Narrow-leaved Helleborine is a member of the orchid family, which is one of the largest families of flowering plants in the world. Orchids are known for their intricate flowers and fascinating adaptations, such as the ability to attract specific pollinators.

  2. The name "Helleborine" comes from the Greek word "helleboros," which was used to describe a poisonous plant that was used in ancient times as a purgative and a cure for madness. However, the Narrow-leaved Helleborine is not poisonous and has no known toxic properties.

  3. The Narrow-leaved Helleborine is pollinated by insects, including bees and flies. The plant produces a sweet nectar that attracts these insects, and as they feed on the nectar, they inadvertently transfer pollen from one flower to another, helping to fertilize the plant.

  4. The Narrow-leaved Helleborine has a symbiotic relationship with certain types of fungi, known as mycorrhizae. The plant relies on these fungi to absorb nutrients from the soil, and in return, it provides the fungi with sugars produced through photosynthesis.

  5. In some cultures, the Narrow-leaved Helleborine is believed to have magical properties. In ancient Greek mythology, the plant was associated with the goddess Persephone, who was the queen of the underworld. It was believed that carrying the plant could protect against evil spirits and bring good luck.

Overall, the Narrow-leaved Helleborine is a fascinating and valuable plant that deserves our attention and protection. By preserving its natural habitats and appreciating its unique beauty, we can help ensure that this rare and endangered orchid continues to thrive for generations to come.


Here are some additional interesting facts about the Narrow-leaved Helleborine:

  1. The Narrow-leaved Helleborine has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. In addition to treating fever, headaches, and nervous disorders, it was also used to treat various skin conditions, including eczema and psoriasis.

  2. The Narrow-leaved Helleborine is a slow-growing plant that can take up to 10 years to reach maturity. This slow growth, combined with its rarity and ornamental value, has made it a target for illegal collection and trade.

  3. The Narrow-leaved Helleborine is a protected species in many countries, including the United Kingdom, where it is listed as "endangered." It is also protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates the international trade of endangered species.

  4. The Narrow-leaved Helleborine is part of a group of orchids known as "saprophytes," which obtain their nutrients from decaying organic matter rather than from photosynthesis. This adaptation allows them to thrive in areas with low light levels, such as the forest floor.

  5. The Narrow-leaved Helleborine is a beautiful and unusual plant that can add a touch of elegance and sophistication to any garden. However, it is important to ensure that any plants used for ornamental purposes are obtained from reputable sources and not collected from the wild, which can further threaten the survival of this already vulnerable species.

In conclusion, the Narrow-leaved Helleborine is a fascinating and valuable plant that has a rich cultural and ecological significance. By learning more about this rare and beautiful orchid, we can appreciate its unique qualities and work to ensure its survival for future generations.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map