Wild Orchid

In the shade of a pine tree and under the Kolkwitzia a rare beauty has bloomed. Single flowers have been spotted before in my garden, but this year there are six or seven of these strange plants.

White Helleborine

(Cephalanthera damasonium)

Orchid1

The German name is lovely: Weiße Waldvöglein

Weiß is white, and Waldvöglein is a little woodland bird.

This member of the orchid family prefers chalky limestone soil – exactly what we have here. It is very shy of the sun, and since it is autogamous, i.e. it self-pollinates, it does not depend on insects and is able to flower in very deep shade. In fact the ivory coloured flowers hardly ever really open enough to expose the yellow lip.

Orchid3

In Sarah Raven’s “Wild Flowers” she writes that its pale and somewhat ghostly appearance and upright stance is like “a strait-laced librarian… a spinster who turns herself out neatly in public”!

Orchid2

I have read that the plants take at least eight years to develop from seed, and it can take up to two or three years after that for a flower to form. Although not endangered in Germany, it is therefore a rare find. I’m very pleased that it has found a suitable place in my garden so that I can enjoy it!

Have you ever spotted any rarities in or near your garden?