About genus Cephalanthera

Cephalanthera consisting of at least 15 species and Cephalanthera standing near Epipactis. Cephalanthera is Eurasian, and eight species found in Europe. In Norway species Cephalanthera rubra and Cephalanthera longifolia. Both species are very stately and beautifull. Cephalanthera rubra is like a troll very difficult to detect and almost as rare …. Cephalanthera longifolia is also rare, but more common than C. rubra and in Norway at a larger range. The species has not tubers,  but has short creeping rhizomes. The genus Cephalanthera is considered to belong to the more primitive part of the orchid family. From rhizomes grow new shoots in spring to about 50 cm height 2 cm broad and 10 cm long leaves.


The flowers are without nectar and the flowers are visual main draw that attracts pollinators which is mainly of bees. Pollini is attached to the bee’s rump and the scar is positioned so that when the bees visiting the next flower is Pollini deposited on the scar. Pollination mechanism considered primitive, and plants put some seed capsules. That species has poor seed production, must be a major reason why they are rare in our nature. Species reproduce asexually good on new side shoots on rhizomes.

Norske orkideer - Rød skogfrue - Cephalanthera rubra

Rød skogfrue – Cephalanthera rubra

Norske orkideer - Rød skogfrue habitat

Rød skogfrue habitat

Cephalanthéra rubra – Red Helleborine

Red helleborine has a very large distribution area over most of Europe, Asia Minor, the Caucasus, Iran, Turkmenistan and Morocco. In Norway it occurs in a very limited area of southern East Norway mainly calcareous due in lime pine forests and preferably steep, dry, south-facing and warm slopes of Ringerike south to Drangedal in Telemark and in Kragerø. A recent incidence (1997) are also found in Østfold in something acid forest soils. Red Helleborine rarely seed capsules, but it has good vegetative dispersal ability as the same individual may get more shots. Directorate for Nature Management said in 2006 that the Red Helleborine is totally known from 41 occurrences in Norway. 20 of all known deposits are probably individual poor by 1-3 specimens

Red Helleborine gets up to 60 cm high and usually from 3 to 11 flowers. The flowering season coincides with the flowering of Campanula persicifolia towards the end of June. The flowers have no nectar to offer the insects that visit it and it gets pollinated by bees and bumblebees. The scents that Campanula persicifolia, and insects become duped by the flower in search of nectar and pollination can happen.

Red helleborine is a prima donna among our orchids, and tolerate being compared to tropical orchids. It is relatively weak competition and half shade plant. It tolerates little interference on the special growing room. I have visited an instance of Buskerud several times since 1995. On my first visit I found 12 fertile plants and some smaller number of sterile shoots. The following year there were also many fertile plants, and in addition, I found two groups about 50 meters lower in the terrain in this steep hillside. These two instances with two fertile plants. The latter instances I have never subsequently found. I also have the exact same location where I had previously found 12 fertile plants to find only a small fertile plant with only three flowers. In 2005, the same instance three fertile shots plus a few sterile shoots. In 2006 there were five fertile shots and no sterile shoots. Red helleborine is also known for being able to survive in the ground for a long time and first bloom again when conditions have improved. Possibly it is also highly dependent on the year-climate.

Directorate for Nature Management (DN) has created an action plan for Red Helleborine. It aims to ensure the remaining deposits of Red Helleborine in Norway. It’s picking from walkers and development of its habitats that are regarded as plants’ main threats. Eight natural reserves have known instances of Red Helleborine, and in addition, a range of other species proposed protection.

Red Helleborine is protected under the Nature Diversity Act and stands as critically endangered on the Norwegian Red List 2015.