Epipogium aphyllum

Ghost orchid; Epipogion sans feuilles; Widerbart; Ohnblatt; Knælæbe

N and Central Europe, from England eastwards to the Caucasus, and across Asia to Japan.

A saprophytic species, or probably more correctly a parasitic species, of beech, oak and pine woods on base-rich soils, up to about 1700 m altitude. The plants have no chlorophyll and only scale-like non-functioning leaves: all their food is captured from the mycorrhizal fungi in their coral-like roots, which in turn derive their nutrients from the decaying leaves of the woodland humus. The whole plant has a pinkish tinge. The flowers are unusual for an orchid in that they are not twisted upside-down and the labellum is consequently uppermost. They are scented and carry nectar-containing upwardly-directed spurs. They are pollinated by bees.

Photographs: Schwarzwald (Black Forest), Germany 2000.
© Alan Hill.

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© National Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland, 2004