Talk to anyone who knows, grows, and loves plants and they’ll express a special love for orchids. Horticulturalists, botanists, and gardeners love them for their beautiful, fragile, and, in many cases, rare flowers.
With such universal love for these wonders of nature, you’d never expect
to hear an orchid ranked alongside a weed, flowers that are, despite
their beauty, considered lowly because they appear in abundance, show up
in lawns and gardens, pop up in waste areas, and are a non-native
But, there is one orchid here in Western New York that fits that bill….the helleborine orchid.
I have seen it in good numbers in the Southern Tier, the Adirondacks,
and to a lesser extent on the lake plains. That can’t be said for any
other orchid in the state as natives like lady slippers are incredibly
rare. Doesn’t matter if it’s a lawn, roadside, or some of the wildest
territory imaginable…the helleborine orchid thrives in places that our
native orchids don’t and do.
It’s become so abundant in Wisconsin that state environmental officials
have encouraged homeowners to pull them up out of the ground and destroy
them. Many are quick to do so, because the thick leaves when the
flowers are not in bloom make for unattractive sprouts.
If you get them in your yard, let them be, let them bloom. Someone’s weed is another’s beautiful wildflower.
The helleborine orchid is certainly no exception to that rule.
The plant will produce many attractive, small, nodding flowers that are a
very light purple, and sometimes greenish, in hue. The plant can grow
to be 36” in height, but that is an exceptional specimen. Most are less
Another reason to leave them alone, especially if you see them in a
forest with very good soil, is that early in their growth the leaves
look like those to the rare lady slipper. If you picked the plant to
dispose of it and inadvertently killed one of the “good” orchids that
would be a real heartbreaker.
Orchids are to be appreciated. Even those that don’t belong. I let them
grow in my lawn and appreciate the beauty that they bring every August.
You should, too.
From the 23 August 2018 All WNY News