Chatterbox Orchid: The Texas Hill Country is Home to One Rare Species

By  | 
Tony Maples Photography


The plants, flowers, and trees of the Texas Hill Country vary wildly in size, shape, and color—sometimes by only a distance of a few miles; similar flora can be quite different. Although quite diverse, there are some obvious examples of plants that cannot survive the region due to climate, soil, rainfall, and temperature. When considering the plants without a snowball’s chance to grow here, you may be surprised to discover the hills are home to one species of orchid! Orchids are notoriously delicate and prefer steamy atmospheres, but the Chatterbox Orchid can be found.

Also known as the Stream Orchid, Giant Hellebore, or Epipactis gigantean, this trooper blooms from April to July. Typically featuring 4 – 12 leaves, the pattern style is an alternate arrangement along the stem. The flowers range from five per plant to 25 and can range from green to yellow, striped with purple veins; bright yellow, purple, and orange markings can be found on the lip. Wondering where the name Chatterbox comes from? The moniker’s origin is revealed when the plant is touched or jostled, as the lower lip and tongue move like a wagging tongue!

Chatterbox Orchid: The Texas Hill Country is Home to One Rare Species

Photo: @blgroover via Twenty20

Found from British Columbia to across North America and Mexico. Look for this orchid variety in the Hill Country along ledges and shorelines of lakes and streams, as well in marshes and woodlands. Let your nose help: the Chatterbox Orchid attracts pollinating flies by producing a fragrance that mimics the smell of honeydew. Enjoy hunting for this rare species of flower, but if found, be sure to leave it undisturbed. Wild orchids are a threatened species as they depend on highly specialized pollinators and fungi which can only be found in their native habitats. Orchids are particularly susceptible to changes in climate and habitat destruction. Further, collection of orchids in the wild is illegal. Have you seen one of these rare plants?