Albino E. helleborine

kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)June 24, 2005

First time I have seen a completely white Epipactis helleborine. Anyone ever see something like this before? wonder if it would come true from seed.

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nankeen(z8b Portland OR)

Hi Ken,
Neat! :-) That is truely a rare specimen.

I saw one once in Santa Cruz, CA, out of the hundreds or thousands of these invaders in the area. I've read that this species is "common" to have albino plants, at least more often than other species.

Albinism (sp?) is recessive, so a selfing might retain the trait, but I'd like to see someone try to grow it... It'd have to be done symbiotically in vitro and I've never done that sort of stuff before. People do it, but usually research folks. Same reason that you don't see Cephalanthera or Corallorhiza commercially available seed grown. I'm sure you could find an isolate from Epipactis pretty "easily" if you know where to look. I'll ask around.

Best,
Ross

    Bookmark   June 24, 2005 at 11:08AM
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nankeen(z8b Portland OR)

Epipactis helleborine forma monotropoides (Mousley) Scoggan: albino

    Bookmark   June 24, 2005 at 11:13AM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)

I see, now that I'm looking, there are quite a few randomly occuring described forms. Interesting, Thanks Ross!

These badboys seed around like crazy so I might just move this one (isolate it) and let it do it's thing. I think it's autogamous, yes?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2005 at 12:01PM
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nankeen(z8b Portland OR)

I can confirm that at least the normal form is autogamous. Just move it in the fall. The roots go way out and down (18in or more out, and 12in down), and on a plant like this, the roots are essential.

Best,
Ross

    Bookmark   June 25, 2005 at 6:58PM
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hoe_hoe_hoe(6b)

That's wild. I'm not familiar with this orchid, but I've never seen or heard of a completely albino plant going all the way to flower. How does such a thing feed itself? Wouldn't it have to be connected with normal green specimens by underground rhizomes for sustenance like the albino redwoods? This could make transplantation problematic. I would definitely grow on the seed to see what develops. I would also be anxious to see what type of offsets develop. I would think a variegated specimen would hold more promise for the average gardener.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2005 at 9:27PM
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plantfreak(z9aKyushuJapan)

HereÂs an abstract about the European species Cephalanthera damasonium which occurs naturally both as green plants and albinos. Apparantly even the green forms get up to half of their carbon from fungi. There also seems to be a strong relationship between tree roots and the intervening fungi colonies:

C. damasonium

Populations of Cephalanthera (mostly an old world genus) seem to exhibit ablinism more than other terrestrial orchids. In fact the one species native to North America, C. austinae, has evolved to remain in this albino state perpetually. HereÂs a shot of these in California:

C. austinae

Getting back to the albino Epipactis plant, I wouldnÂt try to transplant it. Rather, I would collect seed and try to germinate it via aseptic culture. Lacking any significant amounts of chlorophyll, you will have a tough time establishing these out of flask unless the appropriate symbiont fungi are present or you can provide it with an alternate carbon source. Furthermore, since the fungi seem to grow in and near tree roots, you may have even more difficulty getting the right combination for good transplanting: fungi colonies near appropriate tree roots, and then the orchids successfully growing using the fungi as a carbon source. The seedlings will perish if this process does not take, but it would be an interesting experiment.

Cephalanthera species are sold from time to time here and in the west by dealers. These are always wild collected plants. Growers have found that they do well for several seasons only to eventually fade away. Reason? Probably due to the loss of their fungal symbionts. Essentially, they "starve to death." Very likely that would be the fate of your plant as well.

HereÂs a shot of such a species, the Japanese Cephalanthera, C. erecta, growing in the woods around my house on the island of Kyushu, Japan:

If you do collect seed and try to grow them, let us know the results please! PF

    Bookmark   June 30, 2005 at 5:15PM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)

Well....... thanks PF but that's a bit ambitious for the likes of yours truly ;o)

I've never had so many around the yard before so I'd say whatever the symbiont is it is quite plentiful this year. This one has apparently established quite a relationship w/ it's partner fungi because it was very large compared to most of the others. It has now gone to seed and was never moved. It is probably 25 yds from it's nearest potential pollinator orchid. We'll see what happens if any seed takes next year.

If anyone more ambitious than I (I know Ross is much more so ;o)) would like seeds let me know before they are all dispersed.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2005 at 10:13AM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)

4 of these freaky albinos came up this season in the same location as last year (presumably offsets). It will be interesting to see if they form a colony in time. They are much smaller than last year. Cost of production (it was huge last year)? Or, are they not getting enough nourishment because of their lack of chlorophyll?

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 11:41AM
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nankeen(z8b Portland OR)

Hey Ken,
Glad to know it is a persisting trait. Too bad they're smaller. Maybe the plant can only support a certain volume and breaking itself into 4 just divided out that volume too much. Maybe you could pour sugar water on it: It could help it get along easier... or it could kill it. One of the two, though.

I would take some seed, but the species never produces seedlings easily. I have a grand total of 2 seedlings I've been working on from seed in 2003 and they're still tiny and mishapen.

Best,
Ross

    Bookmark   July 16, 2006 at 10:18PM
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