Epipactis atrorubens

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaOrchidaceaeEpipactisEpipactis atrorubens


A perennial herb found mostly on bare rock or well-drained skeletal soils overlying limestone. Habitats include exposed scree slopes, open grassy banks, shaded grikes of limestone pavements and ledges on cliff and quarry faces. Reproduction is by seed but most populations are small and often include many non-flowering plants. 0-610 m (Gleann Beag, E. Perth).



World Distribution

Eurosiberian Boreo-temperate element.

© K.J. Walker, BSBI

Broad Habitats

Inland rock (quarries, cliffs, screes)

Light (Ellenberg): 7

Moisture (Ellenberg): 4

Reaction (Ellenberg): 8

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 1

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 13.8

Annual Precipitation (mm): 1328

Height (cm): 30

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary

Non-bulbous geophyte (rhizome, corm or tuber)



Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 60

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 13

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: 0.16

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Epipactis atrorubens (Hoffm.) Besser 

Dark-red helleborine

Status: scarce



E. atrorubens is confined to limestone, growing on Carboniferous and magnesian limestone in Wales and northern England and the Durness and Dalradian limestones of Scotland. Its habitat ranges from exposed, bare scree to well-wooded pavement with moderate shade, but it favours wide, shallow grikes, filled with small, broken scree in thinly wooded situations. On the Great Orme it is mostly restricted to narrow ledges on cliff faces. Typical associated species include Carex flacca, Corylus avellana, Fraxinus excelsior, Teucrium scorodonia and Sesleria caerulea. Most English and all Welsh sites are below 270 metres, but it occurs at 400 metres in eastern Cumbria and at over 500 metres on Cronkley Fell. It ranges from near sea-level on the north coast of Scotland to 610 metres in Glen Beg. 

It is a perennial reproducing by seed. Many populations are characterised by small numbers of plants and by non-flowering individuals. The largest populations are on the Magnesian limestone of Durham, where one site may well contain more plants (c. 2000) than all the remaining British localities. It can flower prolifically.

Damage by deer and rabbits reduces its reproductive capacity and quarrying sometimes poses a threat to populations.

It is found in Europe, northwards to Arctic Scandinavia and is frequent in some areas (e.g. Switzerland). It extends east to Central Asia.



R. Wilson

Atlas text references

Atlas (333c)
Allan B, Woods P
1993.  Wild orchids of Scotland.
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Meusel H, Jäger E, Weinert E
1965.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 1. 2 vols.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.