Common Helleborine

Posted by Peter Batty. Date: July 22, 2023.

Spotted in Queen’s Park recently are what I’m pretty sure are Common Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) – please correct me if I’m wrong!

Common Helleborine flowers July to September. Like many orchids the flowers are beautiful, but slightly unnerving. In Scotland it grows in woodlands and on scrub, but it particularly favours wasteland in and around Glasgow. Goodness!

According to Scottish Pollinators the nectar of Common Helleborine contains a number of chemical compounds with narcotic properties as well as ethanol and other alcohols. Relatively few pollinators visit the orchid, but those that do – certain species of wasps – appear intoxicated after visiting it. This suits the plant very well, a slightly dozy drunk wasp spends longer at the flower and accordingly picks up more pollen.

Another trick is to release chemicals that attract wasps in search of prey for their larvae. When the wasp lands there’s no prey, but instead lots of lovely nectar.

Two more facts: Orchids as a species are very good at deception, and the much-maligned wasp make a significant contribution to orchid reproduction.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *