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Lesser Twayblade

Neottia cordata

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
15 centimetres tall
Bogs, heathland, moorland, swamps, wetland, woodland.

Green, 2 petals
A flower spike comprised of up to 25 greenish-yellow flowers, tinged reddish-brown. The flowers measure approximately 5mm wide. Similar to Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata) but the flowers of Lesser Twayblade are more hooded and often tinged purplish-green. 1 stamen and 2 stigmas per flower.
The fruit is a near-spherical, yellow capsule which produces numerous dust-like seeds.
A single pair of opposite, glossy, heart-shaped leaves. The leaves are stalkless and situated near the base of the plant along a single purplish-red, erect stem. The leaves are untoothed and greyish-green below. The similar looking (and more frequent) Common Twayblade is larger than Lesser Twayblade and has leaves which are more heart-shaped. Lesser Twayblade is very small and inconspicuous making it difficult to spot, in particular since it is quite often hidden underneath the heather or bilberry. Formerly known by the Latin name 'Listera cordata'. Grows in mossy places and sometimes in pine woods.
Other Names:
Double-leaved Twayblade, Heartleaf Twayblade, Heart-leaved Twayblade, Oval-leaved Twayblade.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Neottia cordata, also known as the Heart-leaved Twayblade, is a perennial herb that is native to Europe and Asia. It is a member of the Orchidaceae family, and is known for its small, green and brown flowers. It is not commonly used for medicinal or other practical purposes and there is little scientific research on its potential benefits. It's a terrestrial orchid, and it's considered as a rare and endangered species in many countries. It's often found in damp and shady woodlands, and is a protected species in some areas.


Lesser Twayblade, Neottia cordata: A Rare and Delicate Orchid

Orchids are one of the most diverse and complex families of flowering plants, and the lesser twayblade, Neottia cordata, is no exception. This delicate orchid is native to Europe and Asia and is considered to be one of the rarest species in the world. Despite its scarcity, the lesser twayblade has been a source of fascination for botanists, horticulturists, and nature enthusiasts for centuries.

One of the most striking features of the lesser twayblade is its unique flower. Unlike other orchids, the lesser twayblade has two leaves that resemble blades, hence the name "twayblade". The small flowers grow on a thin stem and are greenish-brown in color, blending in seamlessly with the surrounding foliage. Despite their modest appearance, the flowers have a subtle beauty that makes them an alluring sight in the wild.

The lesser twayblade is a hemiparasitic plant, meaning that it partially relies on other plants for sustenance. The plant forms a symbiotic relationship with the roots of nearby trees and shrubs, drawing nutrients and water from them to survive. This adaptation has enabled the lesser twayblade to thrive in conditions that would be inhospitable to other plants, making it well-suited to shady, damp environments.

In the wild, the lesser twayblade is found in mature, deciduous woodland, often growing in damp, mossy clearings. It is also common in damp meadows and along the banks of streams and rivers. Despite its preference for damp habitats, the lesser twayblade is a tough plant and can withstand fluctuations in temperature and moisture levels.

Despite its hardiness, the lesser twayblade is a threatened species and is considered to be endangered in many countries. The loss of natural habitats due to deforestation and other human activities is the main cause of its decline. Conservation efforts, including the creation of protected areas, are underway in many countries to preserve the lesser twayblade and other threatened species.

The lesser twayblade is a fascinating and delicate orchid that deserves to be recognized for its beauty and ecological significance. Whether you are a botanist, horticulturist, or simply a lover of nature, the lesser twayblade is a plant that should not be overlooked. If you have the opportunity to see it in the wild, take it. It is a truly special experience.

The lesser twayblade is not commonly cultivated for ornamental purposes, but it is an attractive and unusual addition to any wildflower garden or naturalistic planting scheme. Because of its unique habits, growing the lesser twayblade can be a challenge for even the most experienced gardeners. However, with the right conditions and attention, it is possible to successfully cultivate this rare and fascinating plant.

When growing the lesser twayblade, it is important to provide a suitable environment that mimics its natural habitats. The plant prefers a damp, shady location with well-drained soil and dappled sunlight. It is also essential to provide good air circulation, as the plant is susceptible to fungal diseases in humid conditions.

The lesser twayblade can be propagated by seed or division of the roots. For the best results, it is recommended to sow the seeds in a peat-based compost and to keep them moist and shaded until they have germinated. Once established, the plant can be cared for by regularly mulching the soil and providing adequate moisture during dry periods.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when growing the lesser twayblade is to avoid disturbing the roots of the plant, as this can harm the delicate symbiotic relationship it has with other plants. It is also important to ensure that the plant is not exposed to herbicides or pesticides, as these chemicals can be toxic to the plant.

The lesser twayblade is a rare and fascinating orchid that can provide a unique and interesting addition to any wildflower garden or naturalistic planting scheme. With the right conditions and attention, it is possible to successfully cultivate this rare and beautiful plant. By doing so, we can help to preserve this threatened species and ensure that it remains a part of our natural heritage for generations to come.

In addition to its ornamental value, the lesser twayblade also has ecological significance. As a hemiparasitic plant, the lesser twayblade plays an important role in its ecosystem, helping to maintain a balance between different species and providing habitat and food for a range of insects, birds, and other wildlife.

For example, the nectar and pollen produced by the flowers of the lesser twayblade attract a wide range of insects, including bees, butterflies, and moths, which in turn help to pollinate the plant and other nearby flowers. The leaves and stems of the plant also provide a valuable source of food for a range of herbivorous insects, such as caterpillars and aphids, which play an important role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem.

Furthermore, the lesser twayblade is a host plant for several species of parasitic wasps, which lay their eggs on the leaves of the plant. When the eggs hatch, the wasp larvae feed on the tissues of the plant, providing an important food source for the developing wasps. In turn, the adult wasps help to control populations of other insects, such as aphids, and play an important role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem.

The lesser twayblade is also an important indicator species, providing valuable information about the health of its ecosystem. For example, the presence of the lesser twayblade can indicate that the habitat is mature and healthy, with a good balance of species and a stable microclimate. On the other hand, a decline in the population of the lesser twayblade can indicate that the ecosystem is under stress, and that action is needed to restore its health.

In conclusion, the lesser twayblade is much more than just a pretty plant. It plays an important role in its ecosystem, providing habitat and food for a range of wildlife and helping to maintain the balance of species. By protecting and conserving this delicate orchid, we can help to protect the health of the entire ecosystem and ensure that it remains a vibrant and diverse habitat for generations to come.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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