Sunday, 1 January 2017

"Westmorlandii" - Only a possible Epipactis phyllanthes variant unknown or maybe a E. Helleborine?

I first discovered the plant on 23rd July 2014,  and published notes and photos on my site "I Love Arnside and Silverdale" on the 25th July 2014

(Caption taken from that blog on 25th Aug 2014)  "The last couple of days have yet again proved so interesting on Hutton Roof having now discovered a new species for the area, the rare Green Flowered Helleborine (Epipactis phyllanthes var: thought to be pendula), 

growing in the shade of a small hazel bush at an approximate altitutde of 700ft. There are three separate plants, one of which is of average size whereby the other two are on the small size but all carry flowers at the top of their stems.  Also long drooping "green ochre" shaped ovaries.The whole general appearance of the plant has a downward look to it. Our phyllanthes are thought to be of the variant "pendula". It could well be the highest known breeding altitude record for this plant in the whole of Cumbria (to be confirmed), in Cumbria the species is more regularly found towards the coastal areas. It is certainly a first for the old County of Westmorland, but not a first for the current Vice County."

"The Westmorlandii" 
a possible "Epipactis phyllanthes var: unknown or maybe a E. helleborine 

Here below are the 2014 photos

The Westmorlandii specimen 1 (Epipactis phyllanthes var ?)
(Cropped photo version) Early photo from 23rd July 2014 - the date I first found it.
Photo: 23rd July 2014 - Hutton Roof

The Westmorlandii specimen 1 (Epipactis phyllanthes var ?) 
Early photo from 23rd July 2014 - the date I first found it.
Photo: 23rd July 2014 - Hutton Roof

The Westmorlandii specimen 1 (Epipactis phyllanthes var ?)
 Early photo from 23rd July 2014 - the date I first found it.
Photo: 23rd July 2014 - Hutton Roof

The Westmorlandii specimen 1 (Epipactis phyllanthes var ?)
 Early photo from 23rd July 2014 - the date I first found it.
Photo: 23rd July 2014 - Hutton Roof

The Westmorlandii specimen 1 and 3 (Epipactis phyllanthes var ?)
 Early photo from 23rd July 2014 - the date of discovery
This is a interesting photo which shows the main E. Phillanthese from 2014-2016, but if you look closer into the dark gryke at the back you will also see one of the frail specimens (now named Specimen 3).  Nice to have a proof photo showing two flowering together.

The Westmorlandii specimen 1 (Epipactis phyllanthes var ?)
Early photo from 23rd July 2014 - the date of it's discovery

The Westmorlandii specimen 1 (Epipactis phyllanthes var ?)
Early photo from 23rd July 2014 - the date of it's discovery

The Westmorlandii specimen 3 (Epipactis phyllanthes var ?)
This is Specimen 3 and one of the two photos from 23rd July 2014 (the date of discovery)
It grew to the left hand side of the more popular 2014 to 2016 specimen
Photo: 23rd July 2014 - Hutton Roof
It only came through as a very frail plant as you can see in the photo
This plant has never appeared again in this same place

The Westmorlandii specimen 3 (Epipactis phyllanthes var ?)
It grew to the left hand side of the more popular 2014 to 2016 specimen
Photo: 23rd July 2014 - Hutton Roof
It only came through as a very frail plant as you can see in the photo
This plant has never appeared again in this same place

And here below is the only
2015 photo

Working title: Westmorlandii Specimen 1
Epipactis phyllanthes var: unknown
Photo: 17th July 2015 - Hutton Roof

Lots of interest started to show on publishing the 2016 photos and this is when the debate began

The Westmorlandii specimen 1 (Epipactis phyllanthes var ?)
Early photo from 2016  
 It was quite amazing the colours of the flower and profile of this plant

The Westmorlandii specimen 1 (Epipactis phyllanthes var ?)
Photo: Hutton Roof 2016

This is as far as it went in 2017 (below)

The Westmorlandii specimen 1 (E.phyllanthes)
Photo: 30th June 2017 

Within days of me taking the above photograph the plant just disappeared completely! I think it was the work of a slug maybe! but could not find any evidence which is unusual.


We had no records or full on photographs for the years 2018 when the plant never came through. 


but thankfully another closeby (4ft away) plant was found in 2019 and it was suspected after taking into consideration the unique colouring and profile that it originated from from the same gene pool as specimen no.1.  This has brought the family to 4 separate location plants over the period (2014 to 2019)

You can see the new 2019 photos of our new specimen no.2 lower down the page


Never came through.

A summary of the earlier historic discussion and opinion prior to August 2019 (July 2014 onwards)

I first found the plant on 23rd July 2014 and within days I sought advice from Alan Gendle (Cumbria) who kindly came on site and confirmed what I already thought that the plant to be "Epipactis phyllanthes" (var: probably pendula).  And this is how I recorded the plant for the following two years (2014 to 2016).

 Although I had previously shown photos on my local internet site eg I Love Arnside and Silverdale back in 2014. It was 2016 that I first introduced the main photos proper of the actual plant and flowers via a larger audience on a national scale eg:  Facebook and Twitter.

Debate followed from within the epipactis fraternity and we have two epipactophiles who are still in favour of this Phyllanthes label being retained, yet we do also have four other epipactophiles who are quite convinced it is a Epipactis helleborine - aberrant (although possibly a new variant), and one that I have decided to call by a working name of "Westmorlandii". 

It has been great to have such authorities look over the plant and give me their valued opinions, although at present I still feel that there has not been any satisfactory outcome. The photos have been checked and double checked, the features have been measured, its denticulation patterns used purely as a supportive role and the geographical have all been considered.

For now! I have decided to go along with "helleborine" although obviously it would be a new rare variant. I don't think for one minute it is a "one off" because there have been two others found in its close proximity which although very frail and weak did both flower during 2016. Sadly the two small frail flowers have not shown since.


Mystery Plant on Hutton Roof Crags (Cumbria Wildlife Trust Reserve)

The Evidence  (in my opinion!)

           Below is the very first photograph of the plant to be placed nationally "online" eg: by facebook or twitter forums which actually shows it's flowers and this is what started the "alarm" bells ringing throughout the orchid community. Below I have prepared my evidence as follows (names have been removed for this document)

For two years prior to 2016 we called it Epipactis Phyllanthes var pendula and this is how it was recorded (2014-2016). 

I was happy with that diagnosis of Phyllanthes and thought little more of it, until R****** kindly sent me his photo of the Cilia of the leaf edges of the plant which straight away made alarm bells ring out for me and this made me feel unsure of the plant being Phyllanthes. I felt that the photo which R****** sent me (next photo shown below) was of a typical example of a Epipactis Helleborine specimen and could not interpret any similarity to Phyllantes from the denticulation lines. I also did manage to take a another photo of the cilia which again only strengthened my thoughts of it being E. Helliborine.  Here I am showing R***** photo and also the lovely examples I were given years ago by M****** and also more photos of denticulation by S*** and both these examples show what the Cilia should look like.

First of all here is R****** sample from the actual plant in question:


Other than a slight irruption at one third from the left hand side all the rest of the Cilia points to Epipactis Helleborine (in my opinion).

I will now show two samples of denticulation photos I have showing you the regular Epipactis Helleborine:

  The above E. Helleborine denticulation photograph was kindly given to me by M******

              The above E. Helleborine denticulation photograph was kindly given to me by S***


The above E. Phyllanthes denticulation photograph was kindly given to me by M******

A very good description of the E. Phyllanthes cilia given to me by a leading epipactophile was said to me recently that it should look very much “like a hedgehog bearing Alopecia”. In my mind the photo shows descrepency in regard to phyllanthes taking into consideration it's comparitives samples also shown.  I could not see where the plant has the Phyllanthes (denticulation) fingerprint at least in regard to the cilia photograph earlier shown, the leaning in my opinion here lends itself more to the denticulation of  Epipactis Helliborine using the above photos as a guide together with the many hundreds of denticulation patterns I have been priviliged to have seen over the years.


Having tried to give my clear views on the “Cilia” I would now like to turn to yet another very important feature (for me) which would be the presence of a “viscidium”.  I have evidence from my earlier photos which I took on 27th July 2016  (below) which clearly shows the viscidium.

             My earlier photo taken on 27th July 2016 clearly shows a “Viscidium” present

From my understanding Epipactis Phyllanthes does not have a “viscidium” present by the time the flower opens, yet Epipactis Helleborine always has a viscidium at the point of the flower opening, and here in this photo we have one which can just about be seen and which is normal during the early stages of flowering for E. Helleborine

Another factor that needs consideration is the colour of the Inner Hypochile which in this flower shows a light caramel coloured brown which you would not expect to see on Phyllanthes. You would generally expect to see pale green although according to “Orchids of Britain Harrop & Harrop” it states that sometimes it is “lightly washed brown”. Again if we were lucky enough to have a Phyllanthes on Hutton Roof what are the odds that it should turn up with a “lightly washed brown or caramel inner hyperchile” surely the odds have to weigh in favour of this not happening with just the slimmest of chances that it could. This again to me throws a certain amount of doubt on our plant being “Phyllanthes!

The ovary on our plant is fairly smooth and shiny with just the slightest of hairs which would be difficult to see without a glass. The ovary is six-ribbed with a stalk which is green for 95%, although at the point just where it tapers at the very junction with the stem (pedicel) I can see the slightest of darker colouring which again would be a main typical feature of E. Helleborine yet would expected to be green pedicel with phyllanthes. Although the lack of or minimal amount of hairs on the ovary shows very much to be on the side of phyllanthes profile. 

      Showing the early photo which was taken on 27th July 2016 shows the junctions where the stalk sets to the stem (pedicel)

The Epichile is “heart shaped” on the mystery plant and is showing lots of purple colour at the point where the two bosses are and directly below this area is a vertical line of green (midrib) showing prominent when you look on close up.  Also the “lip” at the base of the epichile is slightly reflexed and pointing downward.  In this unusual case the epichile is longer than wide a trait not often associated with helleborine.  Other than this length versus width situation, all other aspects of the epichile with emphasis especially on the colour is more associated with Epipactis Helleborine.


Petals are just slightly smaller than the very noticeable pointed Sepals, yet this is associated with both species

Geographical Location is very interesting – Our mystery plant is found at approx. 700-750 ft above sea level which I am led to believe would be totally irregular for Phyllanthes especially in South Cumbria yet normal for Helliborine. Phyllanthes are not expected to be seen above 650ft which would in turn having seeded in excess of its upper limits on Hutton Roof.  Recorded distribution in Cumbria have been found at far lower levels and the two main established sites in Cumbria for the phyllanthes species are at Sandscale and North Walney which are more or less at sea level.
With this in mind I find it rather strange that Phyllanthes would pick such a place to set seed and survive.  Additionally we (A*** and I) last year searched nearby beech woods to see if we could find other Phyllanthes specimens which you could expect.  Unfortunately we drew a blank.

I can understand how the plant could well look like Phyllanthes especially with its “hanging” large ovary and flower drooping appearance and again with the single leaf holding on to and part encircling the stem and perhaps more upright. 

I have now been able to consult with my textbooks which have been Orchids of Britain by Harrop and Harrop and also Delforge.

I have also been very privileged to have had kind suggestion, opinion, advice, expertise and photographs and good general discussion about this particular plant, along with lots of help from other Orchid lovers who have travelled the width and breadth of the Country to see the plant.  They have included...........................  (ALL NAMES HAVE BEEN REMOVED BEFORE THIS DOCUMENT WAS MADE PUBLIC) but to them of which they know who they are I am so grateful for their kind help, advice and knowledge.

As far as my friends are concerned it has now reached a “mixed decision” with 4 going for Helliborine and 3 going for Phyllanthes and 2 whom I have no idea what they think.

For now, for me - Epipactis Helleborine and one of which I feel is a "new" variant to Hutton Roof and worthy of the working name (Westmorlandii) 


Since writing above, even more information can now be added (with kind permissions obtained)......

This is extracted from Jon Dunn's book "Orchid Summer" Chapter 14 p278 -

My correspondent had sent his detailed notes and photographs to one of Europe's leading Epipactis orchid experts, Jean Claessens of the Naturalis Biodiversity Centre at Leiden in Holland. Jean's reply threw the debate over this unusual plant wide open again.

     "I saw the functional viscidium of Epipactis phyllanthes (on the)
     Ile d'Oleron in France myself. It shows how allogamous
     features can occur in autogamous species.
          As to your Epipactis the colouration of the lip is remarkable
     indeed.  The photos clearly point towards phyllanthes/confusa........"


This was as good as it got! in 2017 (Click over to enlarge)
The photo was taken on 29th June. 

2017 Update

It is with much regret that although the plant did come through in 2017, it only ever showed a trio of leaves (see above), and long before the plant reached maturity the leaf and stem structure went missing. Although I go up daily and check out the plant along with many other plants.  I was not happy to find it had disappeared completely without any trace or left over evidence. Although in my mind I have put it down to possible slug predation perhaps being responsible for this I have always remained slightly uneasy about it! simply because when you do have slug predation in 99% of cases there is usually some evidence left behind eg: the slug itself, or part digested material (it never cleans up) or a definite slug slime throughout the areas (which can be usually seen up to at least a 48 hour period after the event). None of this evidence was apparent, I could also rule out deer or brown hare because of how the plant was well enclosed, so although slug predation still remains favourite it is by no means conclusive.  Lets hope it comes through again in 2018 and that we have more success.


2018 Update

Sadly no definite plant appeared during 2018 although the site was constantly checked out almost daily.  A couple of strange looking plants started to grow quite close by and these were immediately caged and secured.  But over the following fortnight clearly went backwards and deteriorated. At this time we had been going through a severe heatwave and everything had become parched and most of the helleborines had stopped producing and dying back. So guess it was also their bad luck to have hit this period full on.

2019 Update

(28th July 2019) I was checking out the small hazel tree just at the side of where the Westmorlandii was last seen and also the place were I have seen two small specimens in the past.  And sure enough today I managed to find yet another "Westmorlandii No.2. A very weak and fragile specimen of maybe 8" high and the stem the thickness of a large darning needle:

"Westmorlandii (working name) Specimen No.2 (2019)"

"Westmorlandii" working name - Specimen No.2 or Phyllanthes, lies approx 4ft away from the original specimen, but this time our new No.2 lies directly within the base of a small hazel tree and is very difficult to get too to take clear photographs or to take on examinations etc

It is quite obvious and without doubt that this particular orchid is of the same gene pool as the originals I found back in 2014 (see photos at the top of the page), most of the features (but not all eg: pedicels) are almost identical in both plants and the geographical distance also lends support to this.

Going back to 2014 I did also find two very small specimens towards the base of this tree, but again they were I am sure possibly from the same rhizomes in that they too (albeit rather small versions) but of similar profile, colour and build to both "Westmorlandii" specimens 1 and 2 or Epipactis phyllanthes. (You can see one of these small plants in the photos to the top of the page)

2019 factors which will be of interest (for comparisons):

The uppermost flower on both the 2014 and again in 2019 specimen are showing the similarity of the flower pointing up towards the sky rather than hanging down.

Also just on the 2019 specimen the top third of the plant shows the flowers looking outward rather than hanging and that in all these upper flowers the pedicels seem rigid and have not collapsed to allow the flower to hang.

I have examined lots of photos which I took from this year 2019 and the pedicels in all cases where possible to observe are all of a light lemony green colour (with no brown traces like the ones taken in 2016 specimen) or what you would come to expect with a regular helleborine.

I will post more if and when I get chance later!

Epipactis "Westmorlandii Specimen No.2"
Photo: 28th July 2019 - Hutton Roof

 Epipactis "Westmorlandii specimen No.2"
Photo: 3rd August 2019 - Hutton Roof

 Epipactis "Westmorlandii specimen No.2"
Photo: 3rd August 2019 - Hutton Roof

 Epipactis "Westmorlandii Specimen No.2"
Photo: 3rd August 2019 - Hutton Roof

Epipactis "Westmorlandii Specimen No.2"
Photo: 3rd August 2019 - Hutton Roof


I have decided to open up discussion on this rare plant within my blog to try and help to keep all the notes and evidence in one place. The following contributors have kindly agreed with these submissions.

Contribution notes from Richard Bate - 7th Aug 2019

Epipactis Phyllanthes var confusa? -  Specimen No.2 -2019
Photo: 8th August 2019 - Hutton Roof - Richard Bate

Some of the notes Richard quoted:

(2019 plant) - Crazy yes, but this one’s not got any E. helleborine in it

Well, it's controversial taxon on the basis that E. helleborine (like so many Epipactis) is polymorphic and it looks so similar to plain old regular E. helleborine. For me the defining feature is that the rostellum = anthers (1101hrs Aug 12 2019)

"In 2016 I was asked to look at a helleborine orchid found by @BryanYorke on Hutton Roof. It was unlike anything else I'd seen in the UK! My initial thoughts were that this plant belonged to the Phyllanthese group. Armed with a copy of Delforge, I went along to see it.

The only thing I can state with any degree of certainty is that it’s part of the E. phyllanthes complex. I think it’s a variant of E. phyllanthes bearing similarities to var confusa (which it could be) and superficial similarities to E. persica, a close relative of E. phyllanthes.

"Upon seeing the plant I mused that this was a taxon that had not been observed in the UK before.  It bore very long ovaries and possessed unusual floral morphology. Furthermore its leaf margins did not demonstrate the typical tufted pattern one would expect of E. Phyllanthes."

"In July of 2017 I visited a population of E. Phyllanthes in the Findhorn valley with @dunnjons.  These plants had been described by Prof A.J. Richards as having features in keeping with the taxon var confusa.  They were indeed unusual and I felt closely related, but not the same".

We have an obvious viscidium which persists before fading and sessile anthers.  The slightly hairy ovaries are elongated.  The leaf margins hairs are variable in size and appear irregularly positioned.  The hypochile is well-formed and the coloured epichile prominently bossed. 

Our plants have interesting leaf margins, which we can compare to Young's descriptions (1) 2019 HR Epipactis, (2) the 2017 Findhorn Epipactis and (3) and lastly the 2016 HR Epipactis.

Epipactis confusa, now recognised as E. phyllanthes var confusa, is a taxon first described by D.P. Young.  He was investigating reports of autogamous taxa in Scandinavia and sought to clarify whether E. persica existed there.  He concluded it didn't and identifying differences.

I've got a 180mm lens it's awesome, should have considered using it for @BryanYorke 's phyllanthese last night.

It should be noted that I think a lot of taxonomical issues have been created by describing anatomical variants of various taxa as new species and I am opposed to this.  But I think it's safe to say our Hutton Roof Epipactis would at least deserve varietal status.

5/8/19  And this year, a small plant appeared at the same site as the 2016 Hutton Roof Epipactis.  It bears many similarities, most obviously the colourful flowers, it is NOT the same plant, but another in the vicinity.  It is still quite unlike any phyllanthes variant I've seen. 

The floral morphology differs in that the HR Epipactis has a more rounded and reflexed epichile and more prominent viscidium in young flowers.  These flowers are much more colourful.  It would appear that the leaf margins are less tufted and have more gaps and its stems more pubescent. 

The Findhorn and Hutton Roof plants have a phyllanthes feel.  The flowers are pendulous, they are a similar height and the leaves are similarly shaped.  Unusually, for E. Phyllanthes both plants have a viscidium present but it would appear on both plants that these fade with time. 

My conclusion is that the Findhorn Epipactis are NOT variant confusa but certainly E. phyllanthes, and that the Hutton Roof Epipactis is possibly E. Phyllanthes var confusa, but could well represent a new taxon within E. Phyllanthese, maybe a variant adapted to limestone pavements.

(14th August 2019) Moving onto our plant on Hutton Roof, it shares many similarities with D.P. Young’s description of E. confusa but I think its appearance, particularly in terms of the floral morphology is more consistent with that of E. persica (ssp exilis) which ironically was believed to grow in Scandinavia before Young identified these plants as E. confusa. E. persica and E. phyllanthes are closely related plants and can be grouped together as part of a complex, and it is my opinion that due to the similarities between our plant, E. confusa and E. exilis I believe there is a strong possibility it could be either. As we have just a single plant (again) and little to compare it to, I think we have to assume that it is E. confusa on the basis that is a recognised variant of E. phyllanthes and that it can spontaneously occur under certain conditions. However, the more I look at this plant the more of a gut feeling I have that this plant may represent another member of the phyllanthes group and could be an extant population of a new taxon to the UK (e.g. exilis). Given the proximity of Beech Woods and the altitude the plant is growing at (high for phyllanthes) I don’t think this is beyond the bounds of possibility.

These two photographs show both the 2016 and 2019 specimens
Top: left hand = 2016 and 2019 on right, Top right hand shows 2019 left and 2016 on right

Bottom section
Left hand side
Cilia photos top: 2016 and bottom 2019
Right hand side
Flower photo top 2016 and bottom 2019
Photos: Richard Bate

Epipactis phyllanthes variant unknown but possibly confusa
Photo: Richard Bate

On the left it shows the 2016 specimen and beneath it the leaf deticulation

In July of 2017 I visited a population of Epipactis phyllanthes in the Findhorn valley with @dunnjons. These plants had been described by Prof A.J. Richards as having features in keeping with the taxon var confusa.  They were indeed unusual and I felt closely related, but not the same (as Hutton Roof)

Upon seeing the plant I mused that this was a taxon that had not been observed in the UK before.  It bore very long ovaries and possessed unusual floral morphology. Furthermore its leaf margins did not demonstrate the typical tufted pattern one would expect of Epipactis phyllanthes.
(Photo and text by Richard Bate)

In July of 2017 I visited a population of Epipactis phyllanthes in the Findhorn valley with @dunnjons. These plants had been described by Prof A.J. Richards as having features in keeping with the taxon var confusa.  They were indeed unusual and I felt closely related, but not the same (as Hutton Roof)

Upon seeing the plant I mused that this was a taxon that had not been observed in the UK before.  It bore very long ovaries and possessed unusual floral morphology. Furthermore its leaf margins did not demonstrate the typical tufted pattern one would expect of Epipactis phyllanthes.
(Photo and text by Richard Bate)

Epipactis phyllanthes (variant unknown but possibly confusa) 2016 specimen 1
Photo: Richard Bate

Epipactis phyllanthes (variant unknown but possibly confusa) 2016 specimen 1
Photo: Richard Bate

Contribution from Sean Cole - 7th Aug 2019

On Wednesday, 7 August 2019, 12:33:26 BST, Sean Cole <> wrote:

Hi Bryan

Interesting photos and comments Richard has made overnight.

Before offering comment I would like to state clearly that as I have not seen either plant, I am purely going off photos, which out of context are notoriously difficult to call on something as unusual and difficult as this.

In terms of Richard's conclusions in general, he has clearly researched the subject but unfortunately they are limited by the fact he has begun from the pretext that it is a phyllanthes, and all of his conclusions and considerations are based on that premise.

In order to offer a more objective and complete opinion I would therefore prefer to step back and start from the very beginning, by analysing each feature of the plants, considering more than just phyllanthes.

In my summary I try to weight each feature in terms of importance, as well as analyse it  in context. As you know, some features are more important than others. So I will put them in order of significance as I see them.

General: The plants look a lot like E. phyllanthes on first inspection, and could easily pass for that.

1. Viscidia: usually the starting point with Epipactis identification. The unusual plants have viscidia.Normally shownin E hell but not E phyl, although the latter can show it. See this photo from Spain:
This is a pro- E hell feature, but doesn't rule out E phyll. Richard states that on the HR plants, the viscidia shrink and disappear over time - if this is the case, then facultative allogamy doesn't rule out phyllanthes, but it is highly unusual. Now we have the opportunity, the 2019 plant should be revisited to check the status of the viscidia: on a facultatively allogamous plant, as they shrink, the pollinia become crumbly and fall onto the stigma below. On fully allogamous plants, they brown and shrivel (rather than simply shrink and disappear, a subtle difference), and the pollinia remain rested on the clinandria without crumbling. It will be really interesting to see photos of how this new plant develops in this aspect - and critical to a final determination.

2. Ovaries: They are "slightly hairy" according to Richard, but in your original description of the 2016 you say the hairs are barely perceptible. E phyl never has hairs on the ovaries as far as I am aware - it is one of the clinching features for phyllanthes. So if either plant have hairy ovaries, this is a pro- E hell feature and rules out phyllanthes. 

3. Pedicel: Always Green on phyllanthes. The 2016 plant clearly had pinkish pedicel, whereas this year's apparently shows yellowish pedicels? Pinkish pedicel eliminates any kind of phyllanthes in my opinion

4. Epichile: all of the unusual plants show richly-coloured epichiles, with pink bosses at the base. This is a pro-helleborine feature, but can occur on phyllanthes, especially confusa, as in these photos of a plant from Denmark (which looks very similar to the HR plants):  

 It is also long and unreflexed, a feature more consistent with some vars of phyllanthes, but helleborine also regularly shows this feature so it doesn't rule out that taxon. The HR plants seem to show a "keyhole" gap at the base of the epichile on some photos, but while this is normally a pro-phyllanthes vs helleborine feature, helleborine does in fact have this, as shown here - this plant also shows an unreflexed epichile:

5. Hypochile: The inside of the hypochiles on all plants look to be brown or purple toned, but are certainly not green, as one would expect from phyllanthes. However, this colour is also shown on the Danish plants linked above, so does not exclude phyllanthes. It is much more common, if not standard, on helleborine, though.

6. Leaf margin The photos of both the 2016 and 2019 plants show regular, short "teeth across most if not all of the margin. On the 2016 plant it shows pretty even denticulation, and you have covered this in your previous posts. The 2019 plant shows a very short section of apparently phyllanthes-style teeth, but the rest of it looks evenly toothed - so another sample needs to be seen, perhaps from a different leaf. Weight of evidence points towards E hellebroine on both of these. However, this feature can be variable and is never conclusive in isolation - it should always be considered a supporting feature.  However, when "classic" phyllanthes denticulation is shown, it is a strong feature on which to base an identification.

7. Anther cap: Not normally considered as a feature for phyllanthes, but in the case of these plants it is unusually elongated and pointed on the anterior edge, indicating a plant which is showing deformities. These are rarely shown in isolation, so it may be an indicator that other features the plants show are as a result of deformation rather than their being actual features. Just something to bear in mind when considering the plants overall.

8. Leaf veination: Though not a feature I have personally tested, Poland in his vegetative guide states that regardless of leaf size, >14 veins = E helleborine, >14 = phyllanthes. The HR plants have 16 (2109) and 17 (2016), pointing against phyllanthes but towards helleborine.

9. General: As you have stated, the plants are growing at altitude not normally associated with phyllanthes, and in a very unusual - if not unique - habitat. They  are surrounded by a large number of E helleborine, with the nearest phyllanthes being 40km away. There is in fact a "normal" E helleborine between two of the unusual plants. On the 2019 plant, as you point out, the top flower points skyward, and other horizontally, not a feature of phyllanthes at all.

I have two rules when trying to identify difficult plants:

1. Always look at the wider population to see what else is there. One or two unusual plants among many other normal ones are most likely to be the same as the others.

2. If it looks like something, it probably is.

Of course, these two principles might conflict if, as in this case, a very unusual plant among commoner ones looks very like another species. But, as in this case, the second rule only comes into play if it looks 100% like something else, which this doesn't.

Summary:  These plants cannot be proven to be phyllanthes at this point, on the basis that if they were we would have to make far too many allowances for them. They don't have a single classic phyllanthes feature, instead have many features which could fit for that species, but only rarely or in certain varieties that do not normally occur in the UK. Despite overall appearance, we have to accept that:
1. They are facultatively allogamous AND
2. They have "hairy" ovaries and in one or more case pinkish pedicels AND
3. They have non-classic leaf denticulation AND
4. They have leaf veination said to be within the range of another species AND
5. They are growing in a habitat and at an elevation previously unknown for the species AND
6. They are growing among a large population of another species known for its high polymorphism 

Not only that, but a case could be made, using the same allowances for variation, for them to be highly unusual E helleboine, which would usually be much more likely when placed in context.

Until a combination of incontrovertible features are for these plants that enables them to be assigned to a known taxon of phyllanthes, these plants are best described as undetermined or possibly as deformed E helleborine. 

To move the discussion to a possible conclusion my advice would be:

1. Get close up photographs of leaf denticulations from more than one leaf and from both edges of each leaf, including the entire edge.
2. Get close up photographs of the viscidia and pollinia over time to show how they develop, right to the point at which the flowers are fully over.
3. Count the number of veins on the leaves (same on on each plant, compared to the equivalent on the unusual one) on as many E helleborine as possible, to see how many the plants around these have.
4. Get close up photographs of the ovaries to try to show the "hairs" in detail, and the pedicel colour accurately - on all the flowers if possible.
5. Post the pictures on the European Orchid group on Facebook to gauge opinion from experts in other regions, who may have phyllanthes taxa that look similar to this.

Sorry this is so long, I hope it covers everything relevant and offers some help towards working out what you have up there!

Keep in touch with any updates!


A further UPDATE (8th August 2019) added by SEAN

By way of an update to my previous comments (which I am happy to leave on as is, to give context), could I add:

"8th August 2019: Richard recently posted some very clear and detailed photos of the column of the 2019 plant, and these conclusively show the plant to be a phyllanthes; the structure of the stigma and clinandrium, overhanging anther and friable pollinia, with the viscidium now shrunk, show that it is facultatively allogamous.

Any other feature that would be considered anomalous for a British phyllanthes can be ignored in light of these photos.

As originally stated, the plant looked a lot like phyllanthes superficially, but it seemed too much of a stretch in so many ways for it to actually be one (though whatever else it might have been would also have been a really unusual version). However, as I stated in my previous summary - if it looks like one - then it usually IS one, something that overrides the consideration of what else grows nearby. These latest photos prove conclusively that it is indeed a most unusual and interesting phyllanthes, growing in a unique habitat.

Great credit to Bryan for finding these plants, and to Richard for sticking with his diagnosis throughout, despite opinions to the contrary (mostly from people working off written descriptions and inconclusive photographs).

These plants have been a learning process for all concerned, and are in fact still something of a conundrum: they look unlike any other UK examples of the species, and in fact look very like these "confusa" plants from Denmark, linked in my previous summary, so may represent a newly-recorded variety for the UK. 

It would be unwise at this stage to set about creating a new name for these, based on a very small number of plants confined to a tiny area of a single site, but whatever they turn out to be, this is an amazing record. Well done all!"

Hope this is okay, I look forward to the continued discussions on these.....

All the best


Here are a couple of photos showing the area were all the WESTMORLANDII VARIANTS have been found.  

 This is the site of all the WESTMORLANDII variants
You just might see a cheeky chappy peering through the branches
Guess who it is?
Photo: 7th August 2019 - Hutton Roof

 Here we have a close up of the site showing WESTMORLANDII VARIANT 2019
it is very difficult to get too being closed in with the Hazel branches
Photo: 7th August 2019 - Hutton Roof

Here is a mapping of all the histories to the four variant WESTMORLANDII
I have had over the years since 2014
Photo: 7th August 2019 - Hutton Roof

The best specimen was to the far left and came through in 2014,2015 and 2016 but only showed open flowers by 2016. Semi protected by limestone cage. Only came through as seeding leaves in 2017 and not seen it since.

The next better specimen has come through in 2019 which you can see the position in the map above.

Two very weak specimens did come through back in 2014 to 2014, the one on the left was in the side of a gryke and never reached maturity, whilst the one on the right hand was so frail yet did get one flower to the top of the spike (so small!)


So for now what have we got!! (summary)
by Bryan Yorke (13th August 2019)

 A plant I found in the summer of 2014.

on finding the plant I asked for a second opinion and advice from my friend Alan Gendle.

 We both then agreed at the time we had a E. Phyllanthes on our hands, it seemed to meet all the normal criteria of this particular Epipactis taxon.

 I continued to record and publish this plant under the name of E. Phyllanthes for the following two years (2014 to 2016).

This was the first ever photo of the E. phyllanthes with flowers open in 2016
this photo secured the excitement and interest of many epipactophile

The plants opened their flowers prior to 2016, but it was in that year that more credible photos of the flower were available and for the first time posted to the reach of national epipactophiles. When others started to see these photos I received numerous request for visits from leading Epipactophiles throughout the Country who came to visit and form their own opinions.

I also invited my friend Richard Bate to come along and have a look at the plant, who immediately considered it to be a E. Phyllanthes and he took photos and measurements etc. He quickly reached the opinion that this particular plant could be possibly from the variety "confusa".  Also Richard sent me photos with one in particular of the "cilia" of the plant, and this in turn made me have second thoughts about it being phyllanthes, although Alan Gendle continued to hold opinion even up to today that the plant was of the phyllanthes taxon.

The cilia or leaf edges on Richards photo (for me) showed far too much helleborine in the denticulation line with just one slight eruption showing in the first third, but the majority of the line was typical helleborine (or other) profiling. This and other factors and also taking into consideration opinions from some of the learned epipactophiles gave me the feeling we were dealing with perhaps a aberrant helleborine rather than phyllanthes, 

Thankfully Richard kept faith with his opinions and delved deeper into this and was even more determined it could be E.phyllanthes and possibly of the variety "confusa" 

Since 2016 there have been little opportunity to do further investigations, because the plant has never matured since that date and I actually thought perhaps we had lost the plant forever.

It is probably worth me mentioning that for the (non phyllanthes followers) it has been confusing in this instance, because of several features (not normally associated with phyllanthes) eg: The plant having a viscidia, strong coloration on the lip, pinkish pedicels and of course the general habitat and altitude of these plants. I guess this is why it maybe suggested in part to be "confusa".

This year 2019 thankfully produced another similar plant, but not the same plant, although this plant was about 4ft in distance from the original 2016 plant. 

I took lots of photos of this new plant, but still was not able to give any outright confirmation to the taxon based on my photos and the historic information of the 2016 plant.. When I told Richard of the new plant he quickly came to take more in depth photos and collected measurements and other scientific data (see below).  

Westmorlandii Specimen 1 - E. phyllanthes var: unknown (possibly confusa)
Photo taken: 23rd July 2014 - Hutton Roof

Westmorlandii specimen 2 - E. phyllanthes - variant unknown - possibly "confusa"
Photo: Epipactis phyllanthes (var: unknown but possibly confusa)
Photo: Richard Bate - Hutton Roof - 8th August 2019

Richard managed to take a couple of photos (above) showing close ups of the flowers which has fortunately got enough detail for almost everyone as far as I am aware to be happy with the diagnosis of the plant finally being confirmed as Epipactis phyllanthes (as yet of no confirmed variety) 

 I do live in hope that one day I will perhaps have enough evidence to secure a confirmation of the actual variety or it's secured taxon, and in the meantime we will have to be happy with variety unknown. 

29th Aug 2019 - Sadly on checking out the plant today we were left with this:

"The Westmorlandii"
photo: 29th August 2019

Been attacked I think perhaps by hare or possibly slugs. The cut in the stem is at a angle typical of being cut by Brown Hare. Also typical of Hare is leaving cut stalks or part of stalks alongside the original just like this. (see stalk remains to the rh)

I was up there on Saturday last when the plant was intacked and laden with weighted ovaries.


(Update on 14th August 2019)

Just found these long lost photos I took back in 2014 (discovery year), and very surprised to see that the specimen had 6 open flowers at that time.  Also managed to find the photos for one of the small specimen which lie to the North side of the tree - here are the photos. We are now just missing the small frail specimen from the South side (I must keep delving into them photo folders)

for now please enjoy:

(Cropped version) I only wish I could have found this photo a lot earlier eg: 2014
Plant first found in 2014, but the majority of Epipactophiles never saw it until 2016
I really have no idea why I never put it on the net in 2014 but the photo had
remained lost within my folder archives until today......

Plant first found in 2014, but the majority of Epipactophiles never saw it until 2016

Plant first found in 2014, but the majority of Epipactophiles never saw it until 2016

(cropped version) from 2014 (discovery year)
Plant first found in 2014, but the majority of Epipactophiles never saw it until 2016

 This is Specimen 3 and one of the two photos from 2014 (the year first discovered)
It grew to the left hand side of the more popular 2014 to 2016 specimen
Photo: 23rd July 2014 - Hutton Roof
This plant was frail and only measured perhaps 6" in height and sadly  has never appeared again in this same place

This is Specimen 3 and one of the two photos from 2014 (the year first discovered)
It grew to the left hand side of the population 2016
Photo: 23rd July 2014 - Hutton Roof
This plant was frail and only measured perhaps 6" in height and sadly  has never appeared again in this same place


Hybridization introgression considerations in the Westmorlandii specimens on Hutton Roof.  (31st August 2019)

It’s now five years since I first discovered the beautiful ‘Westmorlandii’ plants which we have on Hutton Roof.  I have in that time been able to watch and record their developments. Yet I have still not been able to reach any final resolutions to their early source of their taxonomic rise and subsequently cannot record their full nomenclature. Without doubt the plants have been and remain very much problematic and a cause which will continue to be investigated for some time into the future.

The plants in question ‘Westmorlandii’ are now thought to be of E.phyllanthes taxon, I am still prepared to be open minded to the considerations of oddities that may possibly have occurred down the line, even the possibilities of hybridization or certainly in part some introgression by other local orchids eg E.helleborine and E.atrorubens
It’s already established that we are within an area that lends itself to lots of introgression and possibly even hybrid swarming as we are already aware from both the E.helleborine and the E.atrorubens hybrid (x schmalhauseneii). These hybrids are well established within a very close proximity (eg 6 mtr) from the ‘Westmorlandii’ individuals or their community.  The close proximity of this established introgression (hybrid) must give one thought to a distinct possibility that a hybrid factor could at least be possible to some varying degree.

(Below are very recent notes and suggestions kindly given to me by leading European Orchidologists in connection to the Westmorlandii specimen (names have been purposely removed)

  The Hutton Roof plant can be genetically influenced by another Epipactis (pink coloured epichile and robustness). For instance, the Danish botanists believed that the Danish E. confusa is introgressed by another Epipactis too, as well as E. helleborine. I would say you can get only the exact status of such single plants by carrying out the molecular genetic investigations. Molecular analysis would distinguish these species although probably not between different infraspecific taxa of E. phyllanthes).

I do agree that your plant(s) do seem to show a similarity to the confusa from the Baltic region, mainly Denmark. Unfortunately, some leading Danish orchidologists seem to have concluded that confusa is within the pendula/vectensis morphological spectrum and thus not a distinct taxon. That does not mean that they were correct and I note that the latest Delforge (2016) still lists E. confusa as a separate species even though Hollingsworth found that molecularly it was co-specific with E. phyllanthes)

As you will appreciate, the suggestion of introgression is really no more than a soft option to explain the presence of a viscidium. I agree that there is a problem with this suggestion, but for me it is the apparent total absence of any var. pendula/vectensis to be introgressed - the introgressor could be either E. atrorubens or E. helleborine. In connection with another plant, Richard Bateman has suggested that an E. phyllanthes viscidum might simply be an evolutionary hangover. But at the moment - and probably for the foreseeable future - it’s all just speculation!

Although you have ruled out E. helleborine, I think it is still a possibility, although I think that E. pyllanthes is much more likely. Molecular analysis would distinguish these species.

I guess for me the most striking feature of the ‘Westmorlandii’ has without doubt got to be the colour of its epichile (lip) with its striking purple/apple green appearance. I would love to describe the reddish/purple has ruben or maybe atro-ruben and the green obviously helleborine, but we all know it just is not that simple but the idea did flash through my mind…
None of our four plants have been robust, all our plants have been spindly/frail plants. And although the epichile feature has had some likeness to the confusa taxon in my opinion it does not match with the confusa general ‘robust’ descriptions.
For me in part the description of our Westmorlandii would match to limited degree with certain factors connected with the persica – exilis eg: spindly, liken to shade, found on high altitude. But on two accounts I would not be happy with the epichile colouring against persica ss exilis and after giving it lots of thought I now think that the origins and regular habitats of this species are geographical far too distant from the UK for it to be significant.

So what makes things so special or unusual about our Westmorlandii

1)  It is found appearing from grykes on a carboniferous limestone bed on semi open pavement which is not enclosed by long established woodland, although ours is dependent of shade/coolness from a small hazel tree. The near immediate area is open limestone which would have historically been the sea bed, with the nearest established Beech woodland being approx 500 metre away. 

2)  It is found at the altitude of approx. 700ft which is 213 metres above sea level. There are no previous records of this species (phyllanthes) to my knowledge ever being found at such a high altitude within the UK.

3) It obviously prefers to be within shade with coolness, sheltering in constant shadow and coolness from a nearby hazel bush (less than one metre away) or within (the actual base of) a small hazel bush

4) The epichile (or lip) is remarkable in its unique colour. The epichile has a boss area of a deep red/purple colour with a midrib in apple green. The only thing that comes anywhere near in similarity is from the taxon named confusa.  This species does give us a fair indication in regard to possible comparisons to the colour and arrangement, although I would question some of its other attributes especially in the fact that it is mentioned in several papers that the confusa is of robust build, which is totally opposite to our spindly fragile specimens which the Westmorlandii show.

5) Each time the Westmorlandii has been present it seems to arrive around the end of the first week of July, it never presents itself in early or mid June when the E. Helleborines throughout Hutton Roof are well formed. We do have one exception when it came through and was at seedling stage by 27th June 2017.

Bryan J Yorke
9 Glebe Close,
Burton In Kendal,


Further notes I have gathered for help on any future comparisons etc:

The Kenfig phyllanthes are well known for their fluctuations in regards to numbers of plants per year and offer no consistency in their regularity. In other words a bit like "Bee Orchids" behaviour. Some years good some years bad.

  -  Although in most years we are talking single plant specimens in the Hutton Roof plants, I have already noticed irregularities within their flowering years eg: Specimen 1 (main plant) Was ok during 2014 to 2016 then only produced a two leaf seedling in 2017 and nothing during 2018/2019.  Specimen 3 was a small frail plant that just appeared in 2014, Specimen 4 was a small frail plant that appeared in 2014/2015/2016 and Specimen 2 which has newly appeared in 2019. 

Epichile colouration: similarity in recent specimens of E. Helleborine

Going through some of my recent photos I notice there are a couple of "E.helleborine" photos that do show a strong similarity in colour with the epichile in comparison to the "Westmorlandii" I would like to present these photos below:-