Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Plant Profile: Orchids in Ontario?

I first saw this plant 10 years ago. It doesn't look like much from a distance.

It came out in spring resembling Polygonatum (Solomon's Seal) poking through from the ground. I had it growing in an area where we had drift wood showcased in the garden at one time, but rot took over and then these emerged. Then the growth stopped at about 18 inches tall. It stumped me at first.

Now, I see it everywhere. As you look closer, you can see the flowers resemble orchids. It is in fact a a terrestrial orchid, called Epipactis helleborine. It has sturdy upright stems with nodding orchid blooms that range from creamy beige to pink/purple.

Up close, you can see it's real beauty. I wish I could say it's native: that would of made my day. But alas, no, it was introduced to North America many many years ago, having originated in Europe.

It likes moist conditions, but I've seen in grow in dry areas, seeding itself even in turf. Where I captured this photo, it's situated in a fair amount of shade.

The "Heleborine Orchid" can also be slightly invasive. Matter of fact, where the rotting drift-wood once lay, was in an area we turfed over. Years later, I would be mowing over these plants that constantly sprouted back up. It was amazing. So stubborn!

As you can see from last year's photos, come late August/September flower stalk fades and these plump seed pods develop. Quite the heavy seeder. They remind me of gooseberries. The trick is to cut the stalk back before these pods open, spreading the seeds everywhere. Worth the preventative measure.

If it does begin to take over, using a deep spade dig, make sure you get all the roots.  Roots go down about 8 inches. I don't find it uncontrollable.

In the last few weeks, I've watched several bees and wasps pollinate the flowers and that makes it welcome in the garden.


  1. Thank you Heidi for your set of E. helleborine photos, including the fruits! It is always harder to find photos of fruits than flowers. I just went to see a friend in the patch of natural land that he takes care of in our metropolitan Seattle area, who had asked me about a plant that I suspected would be Epipactis helleborine, but I didn't get out to see it until the flowers were finished, and the young fruits were the more distinctive remaining feature. I first checked the photos in the local Washington State wild plant website that I usually start with - http://biology.burke.washington.edu/herbarium/imagecollection.php?ID=2743 - but found no good photos of the fruits. So, after doing a websearch for that species and "fruits", or "pods" I found your photos. While your photos show fruits that are more mature than the fruits I saw were, it was a pretty good confirmation that what he showed me was indeed Epipactis helleborine, which he will happily pull out with the rest of the weeds he pulls in his park after I confirm that it was the weed I thought it was. If you wanted to submit your photos to their website - http://biology.burke.washington.edu/herbarium/imagecollection.php?Page=photos.php (without your Heidi Ho over them), I expect they would welcome them!

  2. Thank you. This is very good confirmation of what I thought.


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