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).
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).
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).
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).
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.
A plant that sheds its leaves at the end of the growing season.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Cross-breeding with a different species.
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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