|John and Gerry's Orchids of Britain and Europe|
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E. purpurata was first described from Hartz massif, Germany by J. E. Smith in 1814 and its name refers to the crimson colouration of the flowers. The colouration of the species is also reflected, though somewhat
differently in its common name of the Violet Helleborine.
In reality neither of these descriptions really characterize the species as the overall impression of the
mature plant is one of olive grey, although the stem, particularly with specimens in better light conditions is often tinged purple. The flowers which open widely are variable but usually whitish green and as with
the stem colouration, plants in good light can be vaguely washed violet. Where the species grows in deep shade the flower colours are very pale and can lack any trace of red/violet at all. (see picture 3)
There is however a varietal form that reverses this last condition and which similarly grows in heavy shade but which has lost all its green pigment and is a totally pinkish, lilac in colour. This is sometimes
referred to as variety chloritica and is a plant that completely lacks chlorophyll due to the development
of a saprophytic existence.
This species frequently grows in association with E. helleborine and intermediates can occur but in pure
populations the plants are easily seperated by the differing leaf characteristics. In E. purpurata the
leaves are both thinner and more widely spaced up the stem. Picture 8 depicts an interesting plant from
Dorset in Southern England that has become variegated. It is one of a small colony thought to be the most
westerly outpost of the species.
The photos here come from Surrey, Buckinghamshire and Dorset in Southern England.