Red Helleborine is an extremely rare and endangered orchid known only from three sites in the UK. It also occurs in parts of Europe, where it is considered vulnerable. It inhabits deciduous woodland and requires chalky, alkaline soils.
It is a long-lived perennial with long, thin, dark-green leaves and produces up to 12 pink or pinky-purple flowers in June or July on a single long spike. However, the plant may take several years from germination until the first leaves are produced, and over ten years until flowering.
Red helleborine is classified as Critically Endangered in Great Britain and fully protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Careful habitat management is undertaken at the three UK sites, to preserve favourable growing conditions and to protect individual plants from destruction by herbivores such as slugs and rabbits, and by humans.
Kew has been working with English Nature to assess the genetic variability of wild populations, and to research improved methods of germination and propagation with a view to conserving the species and for potential reintroduction.
Search Kew's electronic Plant Information Centre for scientific information about Cephalanthera rubra
External link: species profile on the Arkive website