Broad-leaved helleborine at Achmelvich
In an earlier article (Orchid-hunting at Achmelvich – part 1), we mentioned our search along the Achmelvich road in late May for narrow-leaved helleborine Cephalanthera longifolia and broad-leaved helleborine Epipactis helleborine, illustrated with a photograph of the latter in leaf.
We returned to the area on 4th July 2020 to have another look at the broad-leaved helleborine, finding it under bracken on the south side of the road to the west of the Yates’s property, and on the north side of the road east of Feadan. We also discovered it at a ‘new’ site, on the Ardroe road north of the bridge. A few days later Mandy Haggith e-mailed a photograph of a splendid example in her garden ground west of the Ardroe turn. However, many of the plants found in shady sites were ‘blind’ and those with flowers were still in bud. There are, incidentally, fairly recent records of this orchid as far east as the Achmelvich Bridge, but we did not have time check these out.
Finally, on 29th July, we did manage to photograph examples in full flower, shown here. The spikes are one-sided, facing towards the sun. The lip is the distinctive feature of the flowers, and their technical description, taken from the beautifully-illustrated Wild Orchids of Scotland (Allan, B., Woods, P. and Clarke, S., Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, 1993, p.48), is ‘a cup-shaped hypochile with a dull reddish brown inner surface, and a heart-shaped purplish, pinkish or greenish-white epichile with a reflexed tip’. It continues ‘Near the base of the epichile are two rough bosses, which can aid identification when the flowers are fresh’. All of which fits well with our local examples.
Ian M. Evans and Gwen Richards