Wild Orchid

In the shade of a pine tree and under the Kolkwitzia a rare beauty has bloomed. Single flowers have been spotted before in my garden, but this year there are six or seven of these strange plants.

White Helleborine

(Cephalanthera damasonium)


The German name is lovely: Weiße Waldvöglein

Weiß is white, and Waldvöglein is a little woodland bird.

This member of the orchid family prefers chalky limestone soil – exactly what we have here. It is very shy of the sun, and since it is autogamous, i.e. it self-pollinates, it does not depend on insects and is able to flower in very deep shade. In fact the ivory coloured flowers hardly ever really open enough to expose the yellow lip.


In Sarah Raven’s “Wild Flowers” she writes that its pale and somewhat ghostly appearance and upright stance is like “a strait-laced librarian… a spinster who turns herself out neatly in public”!


I have read that the plants take at least eight years to develop from seed, and it can take up to two or three years after that for a flower to form. Although not endangered in Germany, it is therefore a rare find. I’m very pleased that it has found a suitable place in my garden so that I can enjoy it!

Have you ever spotted any rarities in or near your garden?

38 thoughts on “Wild Orchid

  1. Incredible that a wild orchid [and the buds promise a true orchid bloom!] can grow in the Bavarian climate! How very beautiful . . .

      • Yes, you have jogged my memory: a young Estonian botanist came here to Sydney some years ago [and Estonia is, after all, way NE of you!] and we were amazed she said her speciality were wild orchids: had quite forgotten!!

  2. How lovely to find one in your garden. We are in a very chalky area but I have never seen one, I will keep my eyes out for it now, I would love to see one in the wild.

  3. The “Weiße Waldvögelein” is such a lovely wild beauty. We have a rare wild flower in our garden, too. It´s the rose coloured “Diptam”(Dictamnus albus), that´s now blooming under our chestnut tree. The English name is “Dittany”. This flower is under natural protection.

    • How lucky you are! I actually planted a Diptamnus albus this spring, but the snails have had a good chew on it and I doubt it will survive… I didn’t realize it’s a protected flower. 😀

  4. How very special to have an orchid in your garden, and such a beautiful one too. I haven’t found anything rare in my garden but wild flowers (weeds) often blow in from the fields around, if they are pretty they can stay, if invasive they have to go. Christina

    • It’s the same here Christina… the invasive things have to go or be kept in check at least. But several St John’s Wort have been welcomed with open arms, as well as some wild field poppies!

  5. Such a beautiful flower and very precious for flowering in deep shade. I can’t say that I’ve discovered anything unusual here, but wild flowers are welcome as long as they don’t try to take over!

  6. What an exquisite plant and beautifully photographed. It is not an orchid I am familiar with as it only occurs in southern England. I am sure you will treasure little colony.

    • I certainly will, as they seem to have made themselves at home here. I’m always pleased to see unusual plants in the wild, so within the garden it’s a real treat.

  7. This is a beautiful little flower! I love the German name, and Sarah Raven’s description is just wonderfully poetic! You taught me a word I didn’t know–autogamous! I’m glad to know the term. I can’t say that I’ve had anything particularly rare just appear in my garden, but occasionally the birds have dropped something “unanticipated” and I always think of it as a special gift. Right now I’m about to plant two fig trees, both nursed in cans for a couple of years. It took me a while to decide if I should keep them both–but the birds (or wind) delivered them a couple of years ago and I think I’ll keep them. Your little wild orchid wouldn’t do well in our heat, but I love it! You have such a knowledge to go with your garden, Cathy! Debra

    • I must admit I didn’t know that word either until last year when I read up about violets – also autogamous! The idea of picking your own figs sounds like paradise Debra! I wonder how long till they bear fruit. Hope they do well! 😀

  8. What a beautiful flower to have in your garden. A very rare find indeed. I envy you with such a lovely treasure as I can’t imagine the good fortune of having an orchid in my garden

  9. What a beautiful flower Pauline. The German name is so apt – the plant seems to be on the point of taking flight. Now why is it that librarians have such a reputation – the ones I know are certainly not strait – laced 🙂

    • I’d perhaps describe it as a pale and elegant Victorian lady in her summer dress, avoiding the sun to spare her delicate complexion, but still laced up! 😉

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