Young's helleborine (Epipactis youngiana)

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Young's helleborine in flower
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Young's helleborine fact file

Young's helleborine description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassLiliopsida
OrderOrchidales
FamilyOrchidaceae
GenusEpipactis (1)

This orchid is endemic to Great Britain, this means that it does not occur anywhere else in the world (3). The flower petals and sepals are mainly green and pink in colour (2).

Size
Stem height: up to 60 cm (2)
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Young's helleborine biology

This species was first identified during the 1970s, but it was not described until 1982 (4); it is believed that it evolved following hybridisation between E. helleborine and possibly E. leptochila var. dunensis (1). In South Wales a colony of plants that are identical in appearance to Young's helleborine has been discovered, but it is thought that they may have evolved from hybridisation between E. helleborine 'neerlandica' and a type of E. phyllanthes (1).

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Young's helleborine range

At present this species is known from just six locations within the UK, five of these are in Scotland, the other is in Northumberland (1).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Young's helleborine habitat

Originally, this species was found on clay soils in an oak wood, as well as on slightly acidic soils polluted with zinc and lead (4). More recently it has been found in Scotland growing on steep spoil heaps where deciduous trees are growing (4). It is typically found growing underneath regenerating trees, particularly birch, amongst light, patchy vegetation (1).

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Young's helleborine status

Classified as Endangered in Great Britain and fully protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (1).

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Young's helleborine threats

The main threats to this species are the destruction of spoil heaps, and the extraction of material from them. A further threat is the neglect of wooded areas where this orchid is found, leading to a dense closed canopy that creates too much shade for the orchid to thrive (3). Two colonies have been lost as a result of woodland clearance (4). It is thought that this species may be under-recorded (4).

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Young's helleborine conservation

Young's helleborine is of exceptional interest and requires further genetic research, as it appears to be a complex of hybrids that prosper in man-made habitats. The conservation of the few remaining sites is therefore of utmost importance (1). This orchid is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species, and is listed under Plantlife's 'Back from the Brink' campaign (5).

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
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Find out more

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Authentication

Information authenticated by Plantlife, the wild plant conservation charity:
http://www.plantlife.org.uk

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Glossary

Colony
A group of organisms living together, individuals in the group are not physiologically connected and may not be related, such as a colony of birds. Another meaning refers to organisms, such as bryozoans, which are composed of numerous genetically identical modules (also referred to as zooids or 'individuals'), which are produced by budding and remain physiologically connected.
Deciduous
A plant that sheds its leaves at the end of the growing season.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Hybridisation
Cross-breeding with a different species.
Sepals
A floral leaf (collectively comprising the calyx of the flower) that forms the protective outer layer of a flower bud. (See <link>http://www.rbgkew.org.uk/ksheets/pdfs/flower.pdf</link> for a fact sheet on flower structure).
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References

  1. Wigginton, M.J. (1999) British Red Data Books 1; Vascular Plants. 3rd Edition. JNCC, Peterborough.
  2. Stace, C. (1991) New flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University press, Cambridge.
  3. UK Biodiversity. Species Action Plan (November, 2001)
    http://www.ukbap.org.uk
  4. Preston, C.D., Pearman, D.A. and Dines, T.D. (2002) New Atlas of the Flora of Britain and Ireland. Oxford University Press, London.
  5. Plantlife (November, 2001)
    http://www.plantlife.org.uk
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Image credit

Young's helleborine in flower  
Young's helleborine in flower

© Professor A. J. Richards

John Richards
School of Biology
University of Newcastle
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE1 7RU
United Kingdom

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