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Violet Helleborine

Epipactis purpurata

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
Riverbanks, waterside, woodland.

White, 5 petals
The inflorescence is a compact flower spike with up to 40 flowers per spike and sometimes more. The flowers are pale green with a hint of yellow, brown and the occasional pink. The flowers have a broad lip (whitish, or very pale pink), up to 1cm wide. The tip of the lip is recurved and has leafy bracts. Each flower measures about 1.5 inches (3cm) across.
The fruit is a capsule which produces numerous dust-like seeds.
The stems of Violet Helleborine are violet-coloured after which the plant is named. The leaves are narrow and parallel-sided. The leaves are also greyish to olive green above and washed with purplish-green below. Leaves have parallel venation. The entire plant is slightly purple-tinged. Most commonly seen growing in shaded woodland.
Other Names:
Clustered Helleborine, Purple Helleborine.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Epipactis purpurata, also known as the purple helleborine, is a species of orchid that is native to Europe, from the Iberian peninsula to the Balkans. It is a perennial herb that grows to a height of about 20–60 cm. The flowers are typically dark purple or magenta in color and bloom from June to September. The plant prefers damp, shady habitats such as woods and river banks. It is considered endangered in some parts of Europe and is protected by law in some countries.


Violet Helleborine, also known as Epipactis purpurata, is a species of orchid that is native to Europe and Asia. This stunning orchid is known for its beautiful purple flowers and its unique ability to grow in a variety of habitats.

One of the most distinctive features of the Violet Helleborine is its flowers. The blooms are a rich shade of purple and are arranged in a loose, open spike. Each flower has a lip that is white and marked with purple spots, which helps to attract pollinators. The flowers are typically in bloom from late June to August and can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodland edges, hedgerows, and grasslands.

Another interesting feature of the Violet Helleborine is its ability to grow in a variety of habitats. This orchid can be found in both dry and moist soils, and it can also grow in areas with a lot of shade or full sun. This adaptability has allowed the Violet Helleborine to thrive in a wide range of environments and has contributed to its widespread distribution throughout Europe and Asia.

Despite its beauty and adaptability, the Violet Helleborine is considered to be a rare plant species in many areas. This is due to a number of factors, including habitat destruction and fragmentation, changes in land use, and climate change. In some cases, the plant is also threatened by collectors who are attracted to its stunning flowers.

Conservation efforts are underway to protect the Violet Helleborine and its habitats. These efforts include the establishment of protected areas, habitat restoration and management, and education and outreach programs to raise awareness about the importance of conserving this and other plant species.

The Violet Helleborine is also known to have an interesting relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. Mycorrhizal fungi form mutualistic relationships with plant roots, providing the plant with essential nutrients in exchange for carbohydrates produced through photosynthesis. In the case of the Violet Helleborine, it has been found to have a specific relationship with fungi in the Tulasnellaceae family.

This relationship with mycorrhizal fungi is thought to play an important role in the survival and growth of the Violet Helleborine. Research has shown that the presence of these fungi is necessary for the plant to grow and reproduce successfully. In addition, studies have shown that the fungi can help the Violet Helleborine to tolerate stressors such as drought, making it even more adaptable to different environmental conditions.

The Violet Helleborine has also been used in traditional medicine for its various properties. In some cultures, the plant has been used to treat conditions such as bronchitis, rheumatism, and gastrointestinal disorders. However, it is important to note that the use of the plant in traditional medicine is not supported by modern scientific evidence, and it is not recommended to use this plant for medicinal purposes without proper guidance and supervision.

In addition to its ecological and medicinal importance, the Violet Helleborine has also been appreciated for its aesthetic value. Its beautiful purple flowers and distinctive shape make it a popular choice for gardeners and flower enthusiasts. However, it is important to note that the Violet Helleborine is a protected species in many areas, and it is not recommended to collect or cultivate it without proper permits and guidance.

Furthermore, the conservation of the Violet Helleborine is not only important for the species itself, but also for the larger ecosystem it inhabits. As a plant species, it plays a crucial role in providing habitat and food for a variety of other organisms, from pollinators to herbivores. By protecting the Violet Helleborine and its habitats, we can help to maintain the diversity and health of the ecosystems in which it exists.

The Violet Helleborine is a unique and important plant species with a variety of ecological, medicinal, and aesthetic values. While it faces threats from habitat destruction and other factors, conservation efforts can help to protect this and other rare plant species for the benefit of both humans and the larger natural world. By appreciating and protecting the beauty and importance of plants like the Violet Helleborine, we can help to ensure a brighter future for all living things.

One interesting aspect of the Violet Helleborine is its reproduction. Like many orchid species, it has a unique strategy for attracting pollinators. The flowers produce a scent that mimics the scent of female wasps, which attracts male wasps seeking mates. When the male wasps land on the flowers, they inadvertently pick up or deposit pollen, which allows for cross-pollination between different plants.

This strategy is known as pseudo-copulation and is one of the many fascinating adaptations that orchids have developed to ensure successful reproduction. However, this strategy is also a potential vulnerability for the Violet Helleborine. As male wasps are attracted to the scent of the flowers, they may inadvertently damage the plant or even destroy the flowers in their quest to mate.

Despite these challenges, the Violet Helleborine remains a remarkable and important plant species with many unique features and adaptations. Its beauty, adaptability, and ecological importance make it a valuable addition to any ecosystem, and its conservation is crucial for the health and diversity of our planet's ecosystems.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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