Alpine Garden Society

Ulster Group

            Plant of the Month, November 2012
Epipactis palustris - by David Ledsham
The genus Epipactis contains a number of excellent species but, to my mind, Epipactis palustris is one of the most beautiful and distinctive of them all. It also happens to be a British and Irish native, although it is rarely seen in the north of Scotland. The orchid is in fact widely distributed across Europe from Scandinavia to northern Italy but populations become scarcer as the species approaches the Mediterranean region. 
As the name suggests it thrives in damp, marshy situations and its typical habitat in our part of the world are the open damp slacks associated with coastal dune complexes. Here, the sandy calcareous soils meet with all its demands ,allowing the long thin rhizomes to spread efficiently with the minimum amount of hindrance.
I discovered my initial plant lingering in the far corner of a plant stall in Scotland (ironically). It was well out of season, with no sign of any growth, and with only a battered label to indicate what might possibly lurk in the pot. I was not very hopeful when I finally committed my purchase to the soil. However, after a relatively short span of time a substantial clonal population has developed out of the initial planting.
Epipactis palustris is proving to be quite robust, and although I would hesitate to describe such a beautiful orchid as unduly aggressive neither could it be described as shy and retiring. The species generally flowers in July and although it is reputed to set plentiful seed, even when self pollinated, this has not taken place to date but because of those long, thin rhizomes it is nevertheless doing very well thank you.
              Orchids of the British Isles
                 Foley & Clarke    Griffin Press 2005
                    ..probably the most comprehensive   site for images of European Orchids...