Saturday, 25 July 2020

Orchid Notes



HUTTON ROOF HYBRIDS – BETWEEN E.ATRORUBENS AND E.HELLEBORINE AND KNOWN AS EPIPACTIS SCHMALHAUSENEII, AND PRESUMED POSSIBLE IF NOT PROBABLE BREED BACKS OCCURRING WITHIN FAMILY GENERATIONS.

I would love to call it my orchid hunting grounds, were I search out the atrorubens and the helleborines together with their hybrids and their many interesting varieties. Checking out these hallowed grounds as so far been self rewarding, not only in the daily exercise it as given me, but the wealth of knowledge and the most beautiful sights these beauties have offered up within their private lives.
It was about ten years ago that I began my journey.  In fact we had just moved into the local area of South Cumbria. I remember it clearly, I had heard that there were a famous orchid hybrid on Hutton Roof called the “Schmalhauseneii” and I felt at the time I wanted to discover this plant and so I set out my stall and searched out the atrorubens on almost all of the local pavements and in the process counted in the region of 2,000 classic atroruben plants with some 75% of the easier pavements surveyed. I did in those early days find several of what I took to be hybrids, but at that stage only being able to recognize the bold, brash specimens, that threw the thoughts of “hybrid” in your face.  Looking back the diagnosis of these bold specimens turned out to be correct, but realizing since there is a lot more to the story of hybrids and introgression than what I knew at inception, and I am also convinced there is still so much learning to be gathered from within my present scope of research.  
Over the years I managed to condense my main study area to just one fell from out of all the sections of Hutton Roof, and all happens for me within an area of approx. 750x500 metres. Seeing the plants almost daily throughout the annual orchid season, you really do get a close feel to the place and get that rare insight to what might be going on within their seen morphology, but may I say only to the stages of hybrid and no further.
I have for many years tried to understand just what’s going on up on Hutton Roof and well and truly accepted in my own mind, that not only are we getting F1 hybrids which some can be seen before our very eyes and probably lots that cannot be seen, but I am sure that there is a possibility that we might also be getting many F2 cross backs or breed backs as well, in fact the breeding on HR has now probably become such a melting pot of various generations of breed backs all at different stages and making it almost impossible for us to ever really know what’s going on with these family on family specimens.
But after saying all that I feel all this stuff is purely presumption and without any concrete fact!  Although at times I have been very suspicious of certain individual plants which have given me the impression that all is not right eg they have shown much deformity within the plant and have not been able to take any handling whatsoever, you touch them almost and they die off within 24 hours, as though they show some sort of “direct weakness” and I have always held the suspicion in the back of my mind that these could be the result of breed back weakness problems,  Another instance was when we lost Hybrid 10 and its partner, it never came through again and yet three years later a smaller in size but almost replicated version came through and was recognized through its geography and old photographs, yet seen about one metre further away from its possible original source. The following year that plant also disappeared without trace. I always suspected that this plant may well have been a cross back breeding specimen, but yet again, I suppose it could just have been a immergence of one of the original No.10 hybrids. All this is based on “the feeling one gets”, but only limited facts.
 Although I have suspected this cross-back situation occurring and I have no doubt whatsoever it is going on in a big way on Hutton Roof, for me as I write this piece, I need to put all this sort of thinking on the back burner for maybe some future occasion (if we are lucky), simply because this sort of projection is only ever going to be presumption and not fact! And bears no relation whatsoever to my current research of studying the classic plants whilst also getting the added bonus of looking for their hybrids.  For now it is certainly left for the science of the future and will I guess on some future occasion be taken up by traditional methods offered by the more advanced sciences usually performed in laboritories.
So it’s a question of getting on with what you have got and more important with what you can see before your very eyes and what you can possibly prove to other interested parties! 
To sum all that up, I can only ever take my research forward to the stages of hybrid or (schmalhauseneii) and no further. To even attempt to take it further would be a complete waste of time and energy. I don’t want to deal in presumption, rather I will deal with the facts.
So we will move on to that very first stage of introgression between the two known species of Epipactis, atrorubens and helleborine. Even that can prove very difficult at times and I am sure I don’t get it right all the time, but I do think my experience now has given me a good start up to be able to recognize what at first looks very different to the norm and shows provision of certain features which can be put down to probable hybrids. This has taken years of learning and when I look back to them early days, it’s just mushroomed beyond all comprehension for me, but I guess that’s just how it is for anyone with any trade.
Even schmalhauseneii hybrids or suspected hybrids can have so many challenges going on between them which in itself can be quite puzzling and intriguing, but at least here we can see the specimens before our very eyes and I like to think get a reasonable judgement to what we may have.
Rather than keep all my notes and findings private, I would rather offer them up to the public so that anyone who may be interested could if they wish get involved with this work or at least read through my work just out of interest. But at least offering up the work like I do may help someone and hopefully save them much time. And this is why I created my blog pages (or online internet pages) called “Epipactis atrorubens and More”.  From the counters it does show that the site gets a reasonable number of hits which makes everything worthwhile for me.
Every year there is usually something cropping up which is different and this year it was finding a further 100 plus E. helleborines in another local area almost attached to my regular research area.  But of more importance perhaps for me was to find a further 3 dark stemmed helleborines, bringing the total now to 4 plus a further possibility of another 4 (dark green), which I am currently working on. I am very happy with this find and have no doubts that these specimens do have a hybrid or introgression connection.  It has always been so interesting to be able to see the hybrid advancement from the atroruben (main feature) looking specimens, well now I have been given a further opportunity of being able to see a possible hybrid from the opposite side eg: starting off from the E. helleborine build (main feature).

***************************************



Prolonged dry weather affecting Epipactis atrorubens and Epipactis helleborine and their hybrid, sometimes known as Epipactis schmalhauseneii. Together with notes on the established growth and current status of known Epipactis varietal forms Pallens, Bicolor and others on Hutton Roof, Cumbria, UK. 
________________________________________________________
My orchid study area on Hutton Roof is a small part of the Crags within an area comprising of some 650 x 500 metre approx. In most years we will get up to 800 Epipactis atrorubens and around 223 Epipactis helleborines, together with up to 12 to 15 hi-vigour hybrids also known as Epipactis schmalhauseneii.
This year (2020) recorded counts show that we have 618 Epipactis atrorubens (of which 138 were predated) and 223 Epipactis helleborines (of which 39 were predated).  There has been a drop in numbers with the regular E.atrorubens. But also quite a large drop in numbers of all plants regarded to be of a hi-vigour status eg: hybrids and E.helleborines.
The decrease in numbers combined with other factors first became noticeable to me back in 2018 when abrupt weather patterns brought about prolonged dry weather during the month of May and June which subsequently in turn caused a drought just at the very time when the orchids needed water at their most. The outcome resulted in quite a lot of plants came through initially, but then gave up growing half way through their growing cycle and we were left with some of the plants showing drooping inflorescence, which never straightened and just then went on to wither away with time. This premature dieback seemed to be at its greatest towards the end of June and affected quite a large amount of the total number of plants.
Still lots of plants did mature and came through as what appeared normal.  I can only guess that the ones that did die premature must have been cited in areas were moisture was at its lowest.  
Continuing into 2019, I was still seeing plenty of problems with some of our orchids eg: Some of the established plants not coming through and some of the ones that were coming through appeared to be of stunted growth. The problems seemed noticeable to at least 25% of the plants within the survey area.
________________________________________________________________
                                                                                     

Moving on into 2020, the whole situation was further compounded by yet again dry weather during the important months of April and May, although we did have quite a lot of plants that did come through and reached maturity, but we also had lots of plants which just gave up the ghost and never even came through.  Of particular interest this year we did not have any specimens coming through and giving up half way through their cycle (premature dieback – inflorescence drooping and withering away). Not one example of this was recorded, although we did suffer many losses of plants.
The most noticeable problems we seem to have had this year was that most of our hi-vigour hybrids, together with some of the hi-vigour tall helleborines just did not appear.  Out of the dozen or so established hybrids on this fell, only two survived maturity this year which were Specimen 11 and Specimen 70 and only ten of the very large (up to one metre) sized helleborines came through. Normally I would see perhaps 30 of the large hi-vigour helleborine specimens, yet I did see lots more of the medium and very small sized helleborine specimens.  I also noticed this year in particular that we had many more of the first year seedlings coming through in all areas, the majority of these were atrorubens as you would expect.

Our hybrid search history studies from Hybrid Hill and Ingleborough View on Hutton Roof                                                                                               
________________________________________________________
I started searching for the hybrid somewhere back in 2011 and began my searches from the areas I was soon to nickname “Hybrid Hill” and its opposite pavement which I called “Ingleborough View”. I received help surveying at the time from Alan Gendle. We did manage to locate several plants which at that time we considered to be probable hybrids, simply because of their large vigour and visible identifiers.
Of particular note, I remember seeing my very first light green stemmed atroruben specimen back in 2013, which seemed so unusual and at that time probably was. I took photographs of the specimen which was a plant well distorted! You can see from the photograph shown below.                              
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­I want to mention this particular plant just to place on record that I had never seen a light green stemmed atrorubens before on any of these pavements and that was over a period of some two years searching out the hybrid, so I guess the LIGHT GREEN stemmed variety just had to be a very rare sight on Hutton Roof and little did I know at the time this was to become more of a sought after varietal form as time went on.
I have been back on both Hybrid Hill and Ingleborough View (last time 18th July 2020) and checked out the areas were we had previously found up to 7 considered hybrids at the time, and nothing could be found of them or clues to their previous existence. I can only presume that again the drought weather conditions affected these once magnificent plants. Although I would like to mention that with these hybrids, some do seem to disappear after only a few years, I guess it’s a sign of natural order.

Establishing my future study area on the Western slopes of Hutton Roof  

Moving on, it was back in 2014 when I received a notification from the then Cumbria Wildlife Trust warden that he and others had seen some very special hi-vigour orchid plants at the top of the West slopes of Hutton Roof and suggesting that I should go and view them. It’s an area known to me which I had checked out several times previous to hearing this but never really found anything striking there on my previous visits. Yet I am so pleased I followed up on this particular lead because what I was about to find was truly amazing and has continued to be ever since by totally immersing my interest and energies in these special orchids.

Measuring the widths of boss against epichile on Epipactis atrorubens

Going back to these early days and most years since Alan Gendle came up to Hutton Roof and helped me with trying to establish what possible hybrids we had on the nearby fells, those days we tried to get a diagnosis for hybrid (or schmalhauseneii) mainly by using BSBI crib info, eg: measuring atroruben flowers with low widths of bosses which had to show to be less than 50% of the width of the epichile. together with any other additional pointers we could find on the actual plant. Some of the tall (up to one metre) specimens gave you a feel of hybrid straight away before even looking for other pointers, something just seemed to stand out and hit you. We did manage to establish that we may have had anywhere up to about 15 probable hybrids on the fell at the time, but some of these fell into debate at times as you would expect.  One thing that did become essential if the hybrid was to be found was to give up on the boss versus epichile measure earlier mentioned and to start taking into consideration the very large wide epichile and boss specimens which seem to stand out and looked like hybrids. Once we got in this frame of mind it did become easier to spot them.

The very recent high presence of “Light Green” Stems on our Atrorubens and their spread in numbers

When we started checking the new study area from back in 2014 and up until say 2016/17 we would only ever find maybe the odd single specimen which showed a true light green stem. It just was not anything to be seriously considered at that time simply because we had no volume to back it up, just purely the occasional specimen.  But all this was about to change and from about 2016/2017 when the light green stem specimens have grown considerably each year and more so in the latter years to a situation where we now have somewhere in the region of at least 30-35 of these low vigour atroruben light green stemmed specimens throughout the study area and also being now found on other areas of Hutton Roof as well. Most of the plants range in size from about 8” to 10” generally, although some are now at varying sizes and even up to about 18”. When the increase in numbers began we also started to take these plants far more serious, and that was from about 2017 when we started to see their spread and we have always held the belief that there is possible introgression of sorts within these “light green” plants purely based on the stem colour. But for now we still need to classify them as an atrorubens variety with a question mark.

The very first Atroruben “Pallens” and their spread in numbers in most years

It was again 2014 when both Alan and I discovered our first Pallens plant on Hutton Roof and since then numbers have grown to over 11 Pallens specimens situated at various points of the study area. There are vast differences between the plants with colour ranging from a Pallid yellow to a very strong brilliant yellow, some show spotting or dappling of red (atrorubens) whilst others do not show any red other than a slight wash over the outer sepals. Most of them have been reliable and come through in most recent years, but sadly again in 2020 we have only had 3 mature to flowering.  Again I do think this could be down to both predators and also part dehydration playing a major part in their non-appearance. Sadly I don’t have any histories prior to 2014 for comparisons.
As yet we have not found any more from different areas of Hutton Roof, although I am grateful to Greg from Leicestershire who has kindly put me onto one he saw on Uberash Roughs of which he passed on details back in 2019, which I did follow up in that year and again this year (2020), but by the time I got there out of all the atrorubens present the one and only special “light green” stemmed had already had their inflorescence removed by Brown Hare.  
                  
Establishing Atrorubens “bicolor” and their spread in numbers since

The bicolor for me began in July 2014 when I wrongly diagnosed the three specimens I had which had two of them on my regular study area and a further specimen on the nearby Two Swans pavements.  I started to call these three red sepalled and yellow petalled forms “Lutescens” which turned out to be a totally wrong diagnosis and with time this was amended to their correct diagnosis of bicolor (previous Lemon Petalled).
So on correction the very first bicolor specimen I found was close to the area of the first Pallens, and the interesting thing was it had red sepals with yellow petals yet with an extraordinary epichile and bosses which were cream.  The size of this particular specimen then was about 12” and it has not got any bigger over the last six years. It still comes up strong and still retains the white epichile and bosses but never gains any additional height.
The second true bicolor I found was further over to the north west of the study area and now heads the 55 population with its own 55 designation, but in 2014 it was only at about 14” high and has grown annually, and now it is almost one metre in size.  The point I mention all this for is to indicate that in 2014 these two were the only specimens of bicolor within my study area.  Today in 2020 we have over 30 recorded bicolors and lots more which are on their way.

A further Epipactis species for now called the “Westmorlandii” and probably of the family “Phyllanthes” has been present on Hutton Roof

A beautiful little plant that I first discovered back on 23rd July 2014. Unlike other helleborines seen before on Hutton Roof and after lots of both on site visual and online debate the census of opinion think it is probably a member of the Epipactis phyllanthes order, although the variety is still a question of ongoing debate.  It is so unusual and it has been suggested that it could belong to the sub-form “confuse”. The plant has always been very frail and dainty and never really getting established from year to year, although it does seem to make the effort every now and again eg: up one year and then missing for a year or so.  When it does come through it is such a weak little plant. I have shown a photo below of when the plant look at its very best back in 2014.

Hi-vigour Epipactis helleborine plants with darkened stems which look like a mid brown colour to variant dark green colour and showing a lighter green bleeding through in parts.

It was about four years ago (2016) that I first noticed we had a helleborine plant which had a dark stem and as come through annually. But this year (2020) I have discovered a further eight of these darkened stemmed plants in an area of approx. 50 metres diameter. These plants may well have been there back in 2016, I have no history on them, but they are proving to be of special interest. To see an example check the photos below. 


This was my very first "green stemmed" atrorubens found after two years searching 
Photo: Hybrid Hill 2014

This was my very first Pallens which
both Alan Gendle and I found on Hutton Roof, July 2014

This was mistakenly diagnosed as a Lutescens which should
have been a bicolor - July 2014 (only the 2nd bicolor found on Hutton Roof)  



(above) This was the very first E.atrorubens "bicolor" I had found back in 2014


above: Westmorlandii (thought to be a E.Phyllanthes)
Photo: 29th July 2016


E.helleborine "Dark Stemmed"
found and photographed 3rd August 2020


**************

                        
                      
                                                         
Dark Stemmed Epipactis helleborines

Although I call it Dark Brown I guess you could say also that it may be a dark green and is very difficult to establish a true colour between the two, also it should be noted that you do see some lighter green bleeding through in places. So perhaps better that the reference be made to "Dark Stemmed" rather than a specific colour. 

 The ovaries to all are very dark and of a brownish colour. The ovaries are slightly hairy, but only to the extent you can expect within helleborine. Obviously the pedicels are of a dark brown. 

All these dark specimens lie within a area of about 50 metres diameter approx. I am not aware of anymore anywhere on Hutton Roof, although obviously this could be possible. 

It was about four years ago that I first started to notice a single dark stemmed helleborine to the SW side of Burton Fell and this one is called 70c for reference. This plant has come through annually, but until this year 2020 I have never seen it in flower, but this year I managed to get it caged and the result is at long last I have seen typical helleborine flowers (Photo below).


70c and although first discovered around 2016, this is the very first
photograph showing flowers - 3rd August 2020

70c and although first discovered around 2016, this is the very first
photograph showing flowers - 3rd August 2020

70c and although first discovered around 2016, this is the very first
photograph showing flowers - 3rd August 2020

70c and although first discovered around 2016, this is the very first
photograph showing flowers - 3rd August 2020
How interesting to see the stem in two tone

Also this year 2020 I have found a twin further down on the next pavement below these are called SW Brown 1 and 2. Sadly SW2 has been taken down at the inflorescence, yet SW Brown 1 has survived and here you can see the full plant with flowers (Photo below).



SW Helleborine Brown 1 and 2
Photo: 3rd August 2020


SW Helleborine Brown 1 and 2

Photo: 3rd August 2020

Close to SW Brown 1 and 2 is yet another dark stemmed specimen, but this time I would say it is more of a dark green rather than brown and lies about 20 yards to the NW of the others. SW Dark Green 3 (Photos below)


SW Helleborine Dark Green 3
late July 2020 


SW Helleborine Dark Green 3
late July 2020 

Moving still further down by some 20 yards you find a lovely trio in a gryke to the bottom of a hazel tree, these again are of a dark nature, but again more of a dark green rather than brown.SW Dark Green 4,5,6. (Photos below)



Trio - Helleborine SW Dark Green 4,5,6
Photo: 3rd August 2020

Further across to the NW by a further 20 yards you come across another Brownish/Dark Green specimen (SW Brown 8) (Photos below)


Helleborine SW Brown 8
3rd August 2020

Helleborine SW Brown 8
3rd August 2020

Helleborine SW Brown 8
3rd August 2020

Helleborine SW Brown 8
3rd August 2020

Helleborine SW Brown 8
3rd August 2020

Helleborine SW Brown 8

3rd August 2020

And finally a further 15 yards to the W and lying within as Juniper bush is yet another dark green stemmed plant (SW Brown 8) (Photos below)


Helleborine SW 8
3rd August 2020

Helleborine SW Brown 8

3rd August 2020


***********

My beloved Hutton Roof,
A special place for Epipactis and a place where
The straight forward has become the rarity
And the rarity has become the norm.

Rubens or Borines which do you want?
A Schmalhauseneii mix for you Sir!
Today can be the purple wash,
Tomorrow can be the green wash.

But we have some green ovary specials,
With a brownier flower to bear and stare,
Called No.9, 9a,9b,9c and so on and on and on
And away until they are gone!

We have some Lemon Petalled beauties,
Small, mediums and largest and blessed,
Green stems or purple stems we have the mix,
Stunning our pupil since 2014 that’s young

What about a Palens Ma’am,
In Lutescens mix or you can have a green cream flavour,
Both are staring “wimperley” but this is only part
Of a start of something far more special.

Here we have the very first on English soil I am told,
Called “Albiflora” and what a little gem it was
It lacks a lot of colour dear “Albi” green and  white,
I even looked through transparency at some of its sight!

Make a path to the bottom of this hill
Where flowers of purpurea live out their days,
It’s a sort of red wine colour they display some years,
Darker with canopy, lighter with sun.

To my North I can see a Helleborine change
Which is so pale and bright!
Often called a special or by name

Viridiflora’s sight.

(Poem I wrote July 2016)

**************

Possible "Albiflora" found on Uberash, Hutton Roof (2019)

In 2019 Greg from Leicestershire was up on Hutton Roof, checking out a different area to my usual patch, over on Uberash Roughs and he found this beautiful specimen shown below. When he sent the photos through he also let me have the details of were he found it.  I quickly went over to check and guess what?  I did find the plant and its light green stem but without any inflorescence.  So I made notes and put it in the diary for 2020.

So this year comes along and I found the notes so thought I will go a little earlier (a few days earlier) and again found it, but sadly all I got was a light green stem missing its inflorescence.  So hopefully by 2021 I may find it and at the same time provide a secure cage, lets hope so.

I think this could well be a "Albiflora" which would be mega rare in the UK, and something so special, but certainly if not we have another very brightly coloured Pallens and of special interest being outside of my present study area. 


Another beautiful pallid form
possibly ALBIFLORA
but if not another Pallens
photo with permissions from
Greg Sowman on Hutton Roof 2019



 Another beautiful pallid form
possibly ALBIFLORA
but if not another Pallens
photo with permissions from
Greg Sowman on Hutton Roof 2019

 Another beautiful pallid form
possibly ALBIFLORA
but if not another Pallens
photo with permissions from
Greg Sowman on Hutton Roof 2019

Another beautiful pallid form
possibly ALBIFLORA
but if not another Pallens
photo with permissions from
Greg Sowman on Hutton Roof 2019