Plant Profiles Broad Leaved Helleborine

Orchids are quite a diverse and beautifully group of flowering plant. Orchids typically require specific conditions in order to grow and can be found in small or large numbers in their habitats. There are many species of orchid and many hybrids that have been created. One of these species of orchid is the broad-leaved helleborine (epipactis helleborine).

Broad-leaved helleborine – (picture link) 

This orchid grows to around 2 feet in height. Its leaves are pleated and typically cover the entire plant but are much smaller at the top half than the bottom leaves, which are much larger and broader. The bottom leaves can sometimes resemble leaves that form on certain types of weeds. This orchid can grow in shady or sunny areas but the orchids that grow in shady areas are typically smaller than the ones that grow in the sun. The orchid is also drought resistant.

The broad-leaved helleborine can produce up to 50 blossoms on the top half of the plant. These flowers are usually a green with pink but may also be yellow, white or a plain green. It can bloom from April to August depending on the location. 

Growing conditions

This orchid typically prefers dry limestone rich soils. Its habitats include woodlands, pastures, near roads, or even near railroad tracks. The broad-leaved helleborine is common to Europe and was moved later to North America where it now grows in 31 states and 6 Provinces in Canada.

Invasive species?

The broad-leaved helleborne is not native to North America and though in some areas it is welcome, in others it thought of as an invasive species that spreads like a weed. This type of helleborned was brought to the United States in the late 19th century for use as a medicinal plant for gout. There are also studies today that show the plant to be an antiviral. Regardless of its uses, many view this orchid as a weed and pest in their lawn. Unfortunately it can be very difficult to get rid of for those that feel that way.


Whereas some orchids can self pollinate, the broad-leaved helleborine is entirely dependent on insects to spread pollen. To facilitate this, the orchid produces a chemical which in other plants acts as a signal to notify certain wasps and other insects that the plant is being attacked by insects. The wasps and other insects are therefore attracted to the plant to fend off these insects only to find that the plant is perfectly fine and they will spread the pollen. Another interesting fact is that the nectar of the orchid has an alcoholic and narcotic effect on insects. This may help with the spreading of pollen as a inebriated insect is less likely to clean the pollen off itself before leaving.