Thursday, July 31, 2008

Plant ID: Epipactis sp.

Are there orchids that are native to growing in NY? I live in Buffalo and every summer have something growing in my yard that looks like an orchid. I will enclose a picture so maybe you can identify it.

Actually there are a number of different kinds of terrestrial (meaning they grow in the ground) orchids that grow and can survive the winter here in the northeast. The orchid family, Orchidaceae, is one of the largest families, if not the largest, of flowering plants (also called angiosperms) in the world and they can be found on most continents. Some are native to North America while others have been introduced and then naturalized themselves in the landscape.

The plant you are trying to identify is in the genus Epipactis, and may very well be Epipactis helleborine, commonly called a broadleaf helleborine. I am always hesitant to swear 100% certainty as proper botanical identification can be much more of an involved process, but I am confident that we have your plant appropriately identified to genus. Helleborines are native to Europe and Asia but were introduced to the U.S. so long ago that these days they can be found in wooded areas and landscapes from Kentucky to Quebec and as far west as California and Oregon. Fabulous picture by the way – thanks for sharing!

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