Stream Orchid – Epipactis gigantea

Stream Orchid – Epipactis gigantea, photo by Steven Foster

Stream Orchid – Epipactis gigantea, photo by Steven Foster

Overall At-Risk Score: 49

Latin name:

Epipactis gigantea

Common Name:

Stream orchid, chatterbox, giant helleborine


Orchidaceae (Orchid family)




Stream orchids produce flowers in mid-summer and later produce fruits that contain thousands of small water or wind-dispersed seeds before dying back in the fall.

Geographic Region:

Stream orchids can be found in much of the western U.S. in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. They can also be found in the Canadian province of British Columbia.


Stream orchids prefer moist, loamy soil and part to full shade. They can be found at the banks of streams, rivers, and springs but prefer wetland regions like marshes.

Vulnerability of Habitat/Changes of Habitat Quality and Availability:

The stream orchid is considered an obligate wetland species, meaning that it lives entirely or almost entirely in wetland ecosystems. Wetlands are some of the fastest shrinking ecosystems in the U.S., and there are numerous organizations dedicated to their conservation.

Ability to Withstand Disturbance and Overharvest:


Status of Endangered/Threatened (by state):

Epipactis gigantea is listed as “Salvage restricted” in Arizona, which is reserved for native plants that are commonly disturbed or otherwise vandalized.

Epipactis gigantea is listed as “Special Concern” on the Canadian Species at Risk Act (SARA) as a Schedule 3 species.

Epipactis gigantea is listed as being of “Least Concern” according to the IUCN Red List.

Part of Plant Used/Active Medicinal Compounds:

Historically, stream orchids were used as a tonic to cure general sicknesses and in ceremonies to purify infants and celebrate girls’ puberty rites.

Recommendations For Industrial and Home Use:

Since the entire plant is used in the process of creating the tonics that were used as a medicine, we recommend staying away from stream orchids, in favor of other, less at-risk plants. Please talk to your doctor before using stream orchids or any other medicinal supplements to ensure safe use, particularly if you take any preexisting medications, which may have adverse effects when used in conjunction with other medicinal substances.


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