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Young's Helleborine

Epipactis helleborine ssp. helleborine

Biology

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This species was first identified during the 1970s, but it was not described until 1982 (5); 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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Conservation

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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 (3).
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Description

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This orchid is endemic to Great Britain, this means that it does not occur anywhere else in the world (2). The flower petals and sepals are mainly green and pink in colour (4).
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Habitat

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Originally, this species was found on clay soils in an oak wood, as well as on slightly acidic soils polluted with zinc and lead (5). More recently it has been found in Scotland growing on steep spoil heaps where deciduous trees are growing (5). It is typically found growing underneath regenerating trees, particularly birch, amongst light, patchy vegetation (1).
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Range

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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).
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Status

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

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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 (2). Two colonies have been lost as a result of woodland clearance (5). It is thought that this species may be under-recorded (5).
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Epipactis helleborine var. youngiana

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Epipactis helleborine var. youngiana, known as Young's helleborine, is a variety of orchid that is endemic to Great Britain. It has also been treated as a separate species, Epipactis youngiana.

Taxonomy

Epipactis helleborine var. youngiana was discovered in 1975 by Tony Porter,[2] and described as a new species by Porter and A. J. Richards in 1982.[3] The specific epithet commemorates Donald Peter Young, who worked extensively on Epipactis.[3] It is part of the Epipactis helleborine species complex, and cannot be distinguished from the wide-ranging and variable species E. helleborine using genetic markers.[2] It is therefore treated as a variety of the widespread species, as E. helleborine var. youngiana.[1][2]

Epipactis helleborine var. youngiana was thought to be a hybrid between two other orchid taxa, probably E. dunensis and E. helleborine.[2] More recently it is treated simply as a variety of E. helleborine.[1]

Description

Epipactis helleborine var. youngiana is a perennial herb that typically grows 15–40 centimetres (6–16 in) high.[2] It differs from typical E. helleborine in having its basal leaf more than 1.2× as long as broad rather than 1.1× as long as broad, in the basal leaf being "flat, flaccid, unribbed, silky to [the] touch, margins undulate" ("cucullate, stiff, ribbed, coarse to [the] touch, margins not undulate" in E. helleborine), in its flowers – when coloured – being clear pink rather than dirty pink, in the rostellum being nearly as long as the anthers (less than half as long as the anthers in E. helleborine) and in having a shiny ovary with a few stiff hairs, rather than matt with soft hairs or hairless, as in E. helleborine.[2]

Distribution

Epipactis helleborine var. youngiana was first discovered in southern Northumberland, close to Newcastle-upon-Tyne and along the valley of the River South Tyne; all the sites were associated with metal mining.[2] Populations of similar orchids on bings (coal-mining spoil heaps) in the Central Belt of Scotland have also been assigned to the same taxon.[2] Similar plants also occur on the sand dunes at Kenfig Burrows in South Wales, which have been polluted by the nearby Margam steelworks.[2]

Conservation

Epipactis helleborine var. youngiana is considered an endangered species in the United Kingdom, and is protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.[2]

References

  1. ^ a b c d Stace, Clive (2010). New Flora of the British Isles (3rd ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-70772-5. p. 863.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j A. J. Richards (2007). Epipactis youngiana A.J.Richards & A.F.Porter (PDF). Plantlife International.
  3. ^ a b A. J. Richards & A. F. Porter (1982). "On the identity of a Northumberland Epipactis" (PDF). Watsonia. 14: 121–128.

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Epipactis helleborine var. youngiana: Brief Summary

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Epipactis helleborine var. youngiana, known as Young's helleborine, is a variety of orchid that is endemic to Great Britain. It has also been treated as a separate species, Epipactis youngiana.

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