LADY'S-SLIPPER ORCHID

Cypripedium calceolus

Orchid Family [Orchidaceae]  

month8May month8jun month8june

status
statusZnative
flower
flower8bicolour
flower
flower8beetroot
inner
inner8yellow
inner
inner8white
morph
morph8zygo
petals
petalsZ2
stem
stem8round
contact
contactZmed
rarity
rarityZrare

12th June 2012, Bavaria. Photo: © Dawn Nelson
A large group in a Bavarian forest.


7th June 2012, Pyrenees, Spain. Photo: © Hester Coley
These are orchids are guarded


12th June 2012, Bavaria. Photo: © Dawn Nelson
Up to 30cm tall. Prefers limestone areas.


7th June 2008, Somewhere in Lancashire Photo: © Roger Hewitt
A single flower atop each stalk. Bold and wide leaves half clasp the stem at intervals up the stem.


11th June 2008, Somewhere in Lancashire Photo: © Fred Johnstone
Flowers more typical of Helleborines.


11th June 2008, Somewhere in Lancashire Photo: © Fred Johnstone
Three narrow beetroot-coloured and twisted sepals emerge at 120°. A large creamy-yellow coloured 'slipper' is suspended from the centre-point.


3rd June 2008, Somewhere in Lancashire Photo: © Joy Ahmad
The 'slipper' is inflated like a balloon. This is the earliest photograph of the plant in Lancashire in 2008.


7th June 2012, Pyrenees, Spain. Photo: © Hester Coley


7th June 2012, Pyrenees, Spain. Photo: © Hester Coley


7th June 2012, Pyrenees, Spain. Photo: © Hester Coley


12th June 2012, Bavaria. Photo: © Dawn Nelson
Three beetroot-coloured tepals: A warped dorsal tepal wider than the two oppositely-twisted lateral tepals. Stems slightly hairy.


12th June 2012, Bavaria. Photo: © Dawn Nelson
A view into the depths; purple striations within.


12th June 2012, Bavaria. Photo: © Dawn Nelson
Three smaller white portions, the central larger and dipping into the opening of the 'slipper' like a shoe-horn (or slipper-horn).


13th June 2008, Somewhere in Lancashire Photo: © Roger Darlington
Meanwhile, back in England the flowers are on their last legs. Leaves are three to four to a stem.


13th June 2008, Somewhere in Lancashire Photo: © Roger Darlington
The pointed leaves have conspicuous parallel veins with bold ribs which help stiffen them.


12th June 2012, Bavaria. Photo: © Dawn Nelson
Leaves also slightly hairy and encircle the stem at the junction.


Uniquely identifiable characteristics

No relation to: Slipperworts which have flowers reminiscent of the 'slippers' in Lady's-Slipper Orchid.

Distinguishing Feature : The equilateral triad of twisted purple tepals above a yellowish 'slipper'.

Some similarities to : Annual Slipperwort (aka Slipper Flower) (Calceolaria chelidonioides) which also has pale-yellow slipper-like flowers but the leaves are totally different, since it belongs to the Slipperwort Family [Calceolariaceae].

This is an exceedingly rare plant which flowers but for maybe three weeks only. So rare that there is only one plant in the North of England. It inhabits limestone areas on the north side of grassy slopes, seemingly disliking strong sunlight. Once common on limestone in northern England it is now all but extinct in the wild, but has been planted in several secret locations. It is now part of Natural Englands')  'Species Recovery Program'.

The Lady's-Slipper Orchid cannot self-pollinate itself due to the large separation of the stamens with anthers and the stigma. It is pollinated (in-efficiently) by bees of just the right size, bees smaller or larger cannot or do not pollinate it. The right sized bee, usually from the species Andrena, sits on the edge of the large opening, but loses its grip and falls into the slipper, the sides of which are slippery (well, they would be, wouldn't they, its a 'slipper') smooth. The bee then finds it impossible to clamber out the way it fell in, and has to climb out from a smaller opening higher up, and in doing so, brushes against the anthers getting pollen on its back. When it next slips into a Lady's Slipper, it deposits the pollen on the stigma, hopefully pollinating it. Self pollination by the bee is also unlikely, as it would have to reverse its way out to do so. But this pollination strategy is inefficient. Luckily, Lady's-Slipper also reproduces vegetatively by division of the branching rhizome and this process is thought to occur more often than pollination. It is un-known what attracts the bees to the flower in the first place.

It can take nine years before a seedling which first appears above ground flowers. This long maturation process is accompanied by a long life; they can live for upwards of 30 years, and some are known to be over 100 years old. The growth rings of one Estonian specimen were examined and it was found to be 192 years old.

 Cipripedin is a quinone that is contained within the Lady's-Slipper (orchid) and which can be responsible for a contact allergenic reaction in some people almost as strong as that from the (American) Poison Ivy plant, but not as severe. It is caused by cipripedin which is secreted from the trichomes on the leaves and stem of some orchids as a purplish liquid. The recent rarity of Lady's-Slipper prevents mass contact, but it used to be grown commercially where handling it caused contact dermatitis.


  Cypripedium calceolus  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Orchidaceae  

Distribution
family8Orchid family8Orchidacaea

 BSBI maps
genus8Cypripedium
Cypripedium
(Lady's-slipper)

LADY'S-SLIPPER ORCHID

Cypripedium calceolus

Orchid Family [Orchidaceae]  

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