Information on Broad-leaved Helleborine

Common Name: Broad-leaved Helleborine
Scientific Name: Epipactis helleborine
Irish Name: Ealabairín
Family Group: Orchidaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period


Click for list of all flowering by month
Broad-leaved Helleborine is not easily confused with other wild plants on this web site.


This is one of those wildflowers which can best be appreciated by a really careful and close examination. A member of a genus within the Orchicadeae family, it is best identified by its dull, green, ovate leaves, the lower leaves being almost as wide as they are long. The boldly-veined leaves are spirally arranged around an erect stem which reaches 80 cm, bearing up to 100 flowers. These flowers are borne in a dense raceme, each one open-mouthed with green-purple sepals surrounding two upper mauve-green petals and a lower lip which is dark-red. This lower lip is heart-shaped and curves below two brownish bosses or bumps. Each plant sends up two or three stems of these slightly downward-curving flowers. They bloom from July to September, growing in shaded woods, scrub and some hedgerows and this is a native plant. 

I first recorded and photographed this wildflower on Slieve Carron, Co Clare in 2010.  

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Helleborine, Broad-leaved
Helleborine, Broad-leaved

To learn more about our Irish orchids, I would heartily recommend a really superb book on the subject which is published by the Collins Press and entitled 'Ireland's Wild Orchids - a field guide'. 

Each of our native orchids is beautifully illustrated by the gifted botanical artist, Susan Sex and is an exquisite representation of an amazing plant; Susan's illustrations are complemented by carefully-chosen words from our National Botanic Gardens orchid specialist, Brendan Sayers. Susan's illustrations of key features of our native orchids are extremely useful when trying to identify a species and Brendan's descriptions help to broaden one's understanding of this complex and intriguing subject, and lead one nearer to making a possible identification. He also contributes information on the conservation of these magnificent little plants and gives details of where they might be found. Please seek out this masterpiece from your usual bookseller or find it on http://www.collinspress.ie/irelands-wild-orchids.html