John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Epipactis leptochila

E. leptochila was first described from Surrey, England by Godfrey in 1919 and its name refers to the narrow lip (epichile) of the species. The plants common name is quite appropriately and succinctly the Slender or Narrow Lipped Helleborine.

This is a somewhat controversial species and several colonies (particularly in the Chiltern hills of England)      have been the subject of extensive study in an attempt to determine the true status of the plants. Pictures 10 and 11 are examples from one of the study groups and depict plants and flowers of obviously differing appearance, which may yet prove to be a new taxon or variety. Another possibility is hybridization with E. purpurata, (which is present in the area), though this would seem less likely given the species largely self pollinating means of propagation.

The title photograph depicts a rather untypical flower with larger petals, mauve tinting and a more recurved epichile. This is probably the uncommon variety neglecta that can occur sporadically throughout the distribution of the main species. The range of E. leptochila is wide and covers much of temperate Europe from Southern England, Germany and Denmark, down to Northern Spain and across to the eastern Adriatic. It is a rare orchid everywhere but is perhaps at its most frequent in England where it inhabits shady sites amongst leaf litter in beech woods. The previously mentioned Chiltern hills represent its stronghold but it has been recorded from most of the counties of England from the Thames valley southwards.

It often grows in association with both E. purpurata and E. helleborine  but can be readily distinguished  from these species by virtue of the (usually) overall green colouration of the flower and its thin, pointed epichile. It can be differentiated from E. helleborine by the lanceolate, more widely spaced leaves.