dark red

Dark Red Helleborine

The Dark Red Helleborine or Royal Helleborine (Epipactis atrorubens) is an herbaceous plant from the family Orchidaceae.

The plant is hardy and has a short rootstalk, often with multiple, fleshy roots. It blooms from June to August with erect, mostly purple inflorescences with dense hair on the tops, standing between 20 and 80 cm in height. The blossoms emit a strong vanilla scent, especially in warm weather. The flowers sometimes vary in color, but are in general reddish-brown, and they are often pollenized by insects, particularly bees. The fruit is a capsule, out of which the light, dustlike seeds are spread by the wind. A number of natural hybrids with other Epipactis species are known.

The Dark Red Helleborine is widespread across Europe, and is found in the north to the subarctic, in the south to the meridional zone, and in the east to Central Siberia and the Caucasus. The orchid grows at altitudes from sea level to 2400 m, and so can be found in mountainous regions such as the southern Alps. In Central Europe is the plant, like all orchid species, in decline in recent decades. It is not, however, one of the severely threatened species of orchid.

The Dark Red Helleborine favors warm and dry locations, with soil basic to neutral in pH, nutrient-poor, and permeable. It grows in loose rock, scree, or sandy soils above a limestone substrate, including dunes, lawns, or open forest. It is also a pioneer species, which settles in fallow areas, road embankments, and waste dumps, in the early to middle stages of ecological succession, among communities of grass and bush and light birch stands. Along with many other species of orchids, it is protected in some countries.

Plantlife designated the Dark Red Helleborine as the county flower for Banffshire, Scotland.

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