I came across this native orchid almost entirely by happenstance. I had stopped at a beach access point to look over at a placid Lake Michigan coastline. Although many different flowers were growing along the coast, one particular shrub caught my eye. There was something different, something familiar about it. I jumped the fence to get close, and my suspicions were confirmed—this was, in fact, a wild orchid! Further observation identified it as Epipactis helleborine.
Lake Michigan shoreline--E. helleborine was growing just to the left out of view
So what do we know about this species? E. helleborine is a terrestrial orchid species that grows in wooded areas, swamps and riverbeds around the world, including parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. In fact, in the US, it's sometimes known as the "weedy orchid" because of its propensity for invading lawns and flowerbeds. An audacious little plant!
E. helleborine distribution in the US (Adapted from: https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=EPHE)
A recent study (May et al (Micorrhiza) 2020) provides insight into how this species is so successful across many terrains. Like many orchids, E....