Cephalanthera damasonium - White Helleborine

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae

Cephalanthera damasonium, White Helleborine plant

Don't expect to find carpets of these lovely orchids; they tend to grow singly or in small groups.


This lovely orchid grows up to 60cm in height, has heavily-ribbed oval leaves, and carries up to 16 white flowers on an upright stem. The flowers do not open fully and so the blunt yellow lip is barely visible.

The flowers are mainly self-pollinated, although pollination by insects has also been recorded. The plants take at least eight years to develop from seed, and flowering can take an additional two to three years after that.

Flower of Cephalanthera damasonium

These orchids occur in woodlands (they are more common in Beech woods) where the underlying ground is chalk or limestone, although they are also found in more open positions from time to time.

Cephalanthera damasonium


Two of the specimens shown on this page were photographed near Bryanston, in Dorset, and this orchid is only common in South-east England although there are confirmed sites in South-east Wales. Cephalanthera damasonium is in serious decline due to loss of habitat caused by the clearance of woodlands.

The White Helleborine is also found throughout continental Europe and as far east as Asia, where it is widespread but not abundant. We have also photographed this woodland orchid in Slovenia.

Flowering times

Cephalanthera damasonium blooms from early May until the end of June.

lower picture: Cephalanthera damasonium growing in mixed woodland in Slovenia

White Helleborine, Cephalanthera damasonium

Hybrids and Varieties


The genus name Cephalanthera means 'anther head', a reference to the globular shape on the stamens, while the specific epithet damasonium is an ancient name for a flower (species now unknown) from at least as far back as the time of Plinny the Elder (the first century AD).

Reference sources

The Plant List

Sue Parker (2023) Wild Orchids of Wales - how, when and where to find them; First Nature e-book (Amazon Kindle format)

Sue Parker (2023) Wild Orchids of the Algarve - where, when and how to find them; First Nature e-book (Amazon Kindle format)

Anne and Simon Harrap (2005) Orchids of Britain and Ireland; A&C Black

Pierre Delforge (2005) Orchids of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; A&C Black

Sue Parker's latest ebook is a revised and enlarged edition of Wild Orchids in The Burren. Full details here...

Buy it for just £5.95 on Amazon...

Sue Parker's new ebook is a comprehensive and fully revised edition of her acclaimed field guide to the Wild Orchids of Wales. Full details here...

Buy it for just £5.95 on Amazon...

Sue Parker's 5-star acclaimed field guide to the Wild Orchids of the Algarve is now available as an ebook. Full details here...

Buy it for just £5.95 on Amazon...

Please Help Us: If you have found this information interesting and useful, please consider helping to keep First Nature online by making a small donation towards the web hosting and internet costs.

Any donations over and above the essential running costs will help support the conservation work of Plantlife, the Rivers Trust and charitable botanic gardens - as do author royalties and publisher proceeds from books by Pat and Sue.

© 1995 - 2024 First Nature: a not-for-profit volunteer-run resource

Please help to keep this free resource online...

Terms of use - Privacy policy - Disable cookies - Links policy