This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol5-6", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
There is no trace of this Orchid in a fossil state. It is found at the present day in Europe and Siberia in the North Temperate Zone. In Great Britain it is found in the Peninsula province, but not in W. Cornwall; in the Channel province, except in W. Sussex; in the Thames province, except in S. Essex; in Anglia, except in Hunts; in the Severn province not in Gloucs, Monmouth; S. Wales in Glamorgan and Carmarthen; N. Wales not in Montgomery or Merioneth; in the Trent province; in the Mersey, Humber, Tyne, Lakes provinces, except in the Isle of Man; and in Berwick, Haddington, Edinburgh, Fife, N. Ebudes. From Fife and Perth it is general elsewhere to the south coast; being local and rare in Ireland and the Channel Islands.
This orchid is almost entirely confined to watery places, being a typical hygrophyte, growing in wet reed beds by the side of pools, as well as in true marshes and bogs. It is associated with the Bogbean, Marsh Orchis, Grass of Parnassus, Cotton Grass, and other typical paludal plants.
It has a slender but rigid, suberect flowering stem, slightly downy. The leaves are lance-shaped, acute, the upper ones terminated in a sharp point, clasping. The bracts or leaflike organs are not so long as the flowers.
The flowers are in a loose spike, with green and purple flowers, and slightly drooping. The lip is scalloped, oblong, longer than the perianth, white, with reddish streaks. The calyx is purplish-green, with pale lance-shaped sepals, the petals white, with pink streaks. Marsh Helle-borine is about 1 ft. high. It blooms in July and August. The plant is perennial, and propagated by division.
There are two staminodes each side of the terminal lobe. The single anther is stalkless and hinged to the top of the column. The lip has a hinged terminal portion, which by a rebound causes an insect to fly upward when it leaves the flower and rub the rostellum, which exudes a sticky fluid and cements the pollinia or pollen-masses to the insect. It is visited by the honey bee, flies, Sarcophaga Coelopa, and Crabro. The lip is long, in two parts, with a narrow connecting hinge. The outer part closes the flower, but an insect on alighting presses it down.
The capsule is pendulous, and, being light, the seeds are liable to fall out and be dispersed by the wind.
Helleborine is an old name applied in allusion to the supposed resemblance to Helleborus, and the second Latin name refers to the length of the leaves.
Essential Specific Characters: 290. Helleborine longifolia, Rendle and Britten. - Stem tall, leaves lanceolate, bracts shorter than the flower, flowers green, lip white and red and purple, label blunt, crenate calyx purplish-green.