Dec 28 2011

Botanical Wednesday: I just like the name…Helleborine

(via Loire Nature)

(Also on Sb)


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  1. 1
    Glen Davidson

    I just like orchids. Who’d say that God has an inordinate fondness of orchids just because there are so many species? Anyway, on the flip side, there certainly aren’t enough species members.

    Orchids seem to exemplify what’s thought to have driven the evolution of angiosperms, sparse occurrences in most areas, hence in need of animal pollinators to selectively pollinate them–and becoming showy in the process.

    Glen Davidson

  2. 2

    I really curious about the word helleborine. Hellebores are another completely different plant. This one is an orchid, Hellebores are in the Ranunculaceae family, different orders too. There are toxic compounds associated with the name, helleborin and others with similar spellings.

    This plant does not resemble Hellebores that I know. The flowers are quite different as are the leaves.

    Anyone know why this plant’s common name is Helleborine?

  3. 3

    There are two kinds of hellebores. Besides the genus Helleborus from the Ranunculaceae that you already named, Veratrum (Melanthiaceae) is also known as hellebore, but the toxins in it are steroidal alkaloids.

  4. 4

    According to the OED the name means like a hellebore and refers to a supposed likeness to white hellebore aka Veratrum album.

  5. 5
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    Helleborine is other flowers.

    Couldn’t help it.


  6. 6

    At least Veratrum album is a Monocot. Some of the Cephalantherea and the Epipactis (also called Helleborine) do look the Veratrum. I’d always heard that genus called “false Hellebores”. But that’s the problem with common nomenclature.

    From what I can tell several species in the Helleborus genus were described (and named-I presume) in the late 1700s. So was the Veratrum and some of the Epipactus. Then the Cephalantherea were described later.
    I suppose the Helleborus we know now were described first and got the name.

    Curious about the names.

  7. 7

    Reminds me of one of my favourite species names – Helvella Lacunosa. It doesn’t have that neat “Hell’a boring” aspect but it rolls off the tongue very nicely. That, and we have some in the lawn every year.

  8. 8

    I just like the color… Purple.

  9. 9

    I’m sick of your pop-ups.

  10. 10
    Part-Time Insomniac

    Helleborine. I pronounced it slightly differently at the end at first. Ether way, though, it’s a pretty name for a lovely flower.

  11. 11
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Yup. That’s a good name.

    @2. lynnwilhelm : 28 December 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Anyone know why this plant’s common name is Helleborine?”

    Sadly Wikipedia :

    Helleborine is the common name for a number of species of orchid. It does not correspond to any currently used taxonomic category. Some of the plants called helleborines are classified in the genus Epipactis, some in genus Cephalanthera. A genus Helleborine was formerly recognised but has now been absorbed into the Grass pink genus Calapogon.

    Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helleborine

    For once is deeply unhelpful.

    Wondering if there’s any connection with the Hellespont (ancient Greek geography – in Asia minor) where rescued children Phrixus and Helle travelling on the back of a flying sheep – the one with the Golden Fleece – with Helle falling off and drowning and giving her name to that stretch of water? A very long shot but maybe?

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