CPC Plant Profile: Giant Helleborine
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Plant Profile

Giant Helleborine (Epipactis gigantea)

Epipactis gigantea collected from Mission Trails Park in San Diego in May 2016 Photo Credit: Stacy Anderson
Description
  • Global Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Orchidaceae
  • State: OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY, AZ, BC, CA, CO, ID, KS, MT, NE, NM, NV, OK
  • Nature Serve ID: 152197
  • Date Inducted in National Collection:

Epipactis gigantea is a tall perennial orchid that grows from creeping rhizomes. The one or more stems are 30 to100cm tall and are essentially hairless until the inflorescence, when they become pubescent. There are usually ten or more green leaves per plant, that alternate up the stem. Each leaf is 5-11 cm wide and up to 25 cm long. The lower leaves are ovate and sessile while the upper leaves are linear-lanceolate. The foliage dies back in the fall. After the foliage turns brown, the new shoots begin to spread away from the rhizome. The inflorescence is composed of 3 to 12 rather showy, greenish-yellow (with purple veining) to brownish purple, flowers (after Cronquist et al, 1977). It flowers from April through early August. (NatureServe)

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Updates
  • 10/11/2020
  • Seed Collection

The San Diego Zoo Native Plant Seed Bank collected pods of Epipactis gigantea from Mission Trails Park in San Diego County, which are now being propagated in the Orchid House by San Diego Zoo Horticulture Staff.

  • 10/11/2020
  • Propagation Research

The San Diego Zoo Native Plant Seed Bank collected pods of Epipactis gigantea from Mission Trails Park in San Diego County, which are now being propagated in the Orchid House by San Diego Zoo Horticulture Staff.

  • 09/01/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Based on an September 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, California Botanic Garden holds 2 accessions of Epipactis gigantea in orthodox seed collection. There are as many as 2211600 seeds of this species in their collection - although some may have been used for curation testing or sent to back up.

Katie Heineman
  • 11/03/2017

The San Diego Zoo Native Plant Seed Bank collected pods of Epipactis gigantea from Mission Trails Park in San Diego County, which are now being propagated in the Orchid House by San Diego Zoo Horticulture Staff.

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

The range of the Epipactis gigantea is very wide although it is generally not common within that range (except perhaps in California). It can be relatively abundant locally, but some these dense local patches may represent single genetic individuals. The species has an absolute habitat requirement for surface water, which is a threatened habitat in many parts of its range, and it can occur infrequently despite the availability of seemingly suitable habitat. Despite these concerns, on a rangewide basis it is thought to be ""apparently secure"" (G4) given the large number of existing populations---many without known threats---over its wide range.

Mary VB Goshorn
  • 01/01/2010

The main threat is loss of suitable habitat that is caused by water development projects or any activity that lowers the water table or disturbs the habitat. Rocchio et al. (2006) estimates the primary threats as being (in order of importance): recreation

Mary VB Goshorn
  • 01/01/2010

Possibly relatively few genets (genetic individuals), although many thousands of ramets (flowering stems). It is often described as locally abundant and very persistent, flourishing for decades in suitable habitats. Populations of E. gigantea are frequently small although there are some populations that get very large (>5000 ramets) (Thornhill, 1996). Often, however, even where the populations sizes exceed 1000-1500 ramets, the entire population is in an area smaller than 10-20m (Thornhill, 1996). (NatureServe)

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Nomenclature
Taxon Epipactis gigantea
Authority Douglas ex Hook.
Family Orchidaceae
CPC Number 6259
ITIS 43481
USDA EPGI
Common Names Stream Orchid | Heleborina gigante | giant helleborine
Associated Scientific Names Epipactis gigantea | Amesia gigantea | Arthrochilium giganteum | Cephalanthera kokanica | Epipactis americana | Epipactis gigantea f. rubrifolia | Epipactis pringlei | Helleborine gigantea | Limodorum giganteum | Peramium giganteum | Serapias gigantea | Cephalanthera royleana
Distribution Epipactis gigantea grows from southern British Columbia in Canada to northern Mexico and eastwards in the United States to South Dakota and Texas. There has also been at least one collection made in c
State Rank
State State Rank
Arizona S3S4
British Columbia S3
California SNR
Colorado S2S3
Idaho S3
Kansas SNR
Montana S3
Nebraska SU
New Mexico S2?
Nevada SNR
Oklahoma S1S2
Oregon SNR
South Dakota S1
Texas S3
Utah S3S4
Washington S3
Wyoming S1
Habitat

A wide variety of habitats, but all have a constant source of water for the roots (Coleman, 1988). (NatureServe)

Ecological Relationships

Epipactis gigantea must have a permanent and constant source of water at the roots. It is easy to cultivate as long as a wet habitat can be provided (Cronquist et al, 1977). In the northern part of its range, it prefers hot springs. One of the known pollinators is the Syrphid fly (Coleman, 1995). E. gigantea seeds are probably dispersed by wind, and possibly by water (Dressler 1981). Seeds of E. gigantea probably require the presence of a mycorrhizal symbiont for germination (Prendergast 1994) In addition to seeds, this species reproduces asexually by underground rhizome, and can sever the connection between the daughter ramet and the parental plant within one season (Thornhill, 1996). (NatureServe)

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Reintroduction
Lead Institution State Reintroduction Type Year of First Outplanting

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