As if orchids weren’t complicated enough, I decided to find out more about helleborines which, to someone like me, are a bit more mysterious than those I usually come across. Infact, despite knowing we have broad-leaved helleborines at the Ben Rhydding Gravel Pits, trying to locate them year after year has not always been straight forward.
At present, they have just started to become more visible but, as you can see from the featured image, they blend well in with the surrounding greenery. A week earlier I had completely failed to notice they were there but, at full height, they can stand up to a metre tall.
Flowering between late July and October, they are considered to be quite widespread throughout England and Wales – less so in Scotland and Ireland. They have a wide range of habitats including woodland, scrub, grikes in limestone pavement, railway embankments, screes, road and pathsides, mining debris, dune slacks and sometimes people’s gardens – their largest abundance, in Britain, is thought to be in the suburbs of Glasgow!
The cup shaped flowers can vary from relatively few to many and exhibit a dull pinkish brown appearance. Cross-pollination by insects is usual – especially wasps. Self-pollination does not occur without the presence of insects. In contrast, other helleborines are not quite as simple and may self-pollinate in the absence of insects, fertilisation even occurring in unopened flowers. And then there are the hybrids between species to make things more interesting!