John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Cephalanthera rubra

C. rubra was first described by Richard from Iena (Germany) in 1767 and it name alludes to the distinctive red (more accurately lilac/pink) colouration of the flowers. Its common name is the Red Helleborine.

This is an orchid renowned for its propensity to vanish for years on end in sites where it had previously been present in large numbers, only to reappear as if nothing had occurred. The reasons for these periodic disappearances are not known with certainty but studies indicate that it is highly sensitive to even small changes in habitat conditions with both light levels and competition appearing to be of critical importance. During these periods of underground existence the plant survives in a vegetative state, depending entirely on mycorrhizal based food production.

C. rubra  has a huge distribution from the Atlantic to the Caspian sea and is perhaps at its most frequent in  temperate and sub Mediterranean regions, becoming progressively local and uncommon in the north of its range. In Britain it is a very rare orchid indeed, being known from only three well known locations plus a limited number of less publicized sites all in the southern half of the country.

It is very much a plant of shady positions and this most usually takes the form of deciduous or mixed woodland, normally but not exclusively on calcareous substrates. It is a very slender plant and easily recognized as a Cephalanthera but where the pink colouration differentiates it from all the other predominantly white flowered members of the genus. C. kurdica and C. cucullata, although pink flowered, do not have any significant overlap of range. The pictures are from Var, southern France and Austria, dating from the month of June.