Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Hello helleborines!

I took a trip up the hill to see if the helleborines I'd spotted a couple of weeks ago had flowered yet. I'd first seen them in bud and was hoping I could identify them by their flowers.

I found about 12 plants in flower in a small shady area under the beech trees. They're small and delicate and really quite hard to spot as they blend into the background so well.

As for their identity ... well I narrowed it down to either broad-leaved or narrow-lipped helleborines. The two are closely related and my book says that the narrow-lipped's have a narrow heart shaped lip that is greenish white (sometimes tinged pink) with a tip that does not curve under. The broad-leaved's have broad upper petals that are strongly purple-tinged and a purplish heart shaped lip, the tip of which is usually curved under.
No purple tinge and lip not curved under - narrow-lipped helleborine?
I'm afraid I struggled to be sure what they were, as they're tricky little things, so I asked the experts to help. A very helpful helleborine expert called Mark Lynes identified them as narrow-lipped helleborines, a nationally scarce plant. I knew they grew around here but I'd never seen them before, so I'm thrilled to find them. They're extra special because I found them without any help (most of the other unusual orchids have either been seen on a guided walk or I've found because somebody told me where to look).

I'll go back next week for another look when they're further out and I can try to get some better photos (I had the dog with me today, so taking photos of them was tricky as I had to stop her from sitting on them!)

Nearby I found another helleborine which was still in bud. It was much bigger and greener so I'll have to see what this is when it flowers as well.

As I was having a helleborine morning, I popped up to Whiteleaf to have a look at the violet helleborines to see if they'd flowered yet. Still no flowers open but the buds are well developed and they've started to straighten up. Won't be long now until the flowers open, as long as they don't get eaten by anything!
Violet helleborine

Violet helleborine

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