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Lady's Slipper-orchid
Cypripedium calceolus

Lady's Slipper-orchid is a Red Data Book species classified as Critically Endangered and fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Never widespread in Britain, the beauty of this plant was its downfall: it was ruthlessly dug up and plundered, particularly in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Cypripedium calceolus was declared extinct in Britain in 1917, but in 1930 a single plant was discovered in a remote location in Yorkshire, where it survives to this day despite very mixed fortunes. Visits are strongly discouraged for fear of damage to the plant and the area immediately surrounding it. In recent years a Lady's Slipper-orchid re-introduction programme has been carried out at Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve, in Lancashire. Jointly funded by Natural England and the Sainsbury Foundation, this initiative has been very successful, and there are now many flowering plants that can be visited by the public. The best time to go and see this orchid at the reserve is the first half of June. Although still widespread in some parts of Europe, the Lady's Slipper-orchid is in decline throughout its range. Plant theft is still rife. This species is found in Sweden, Bulgaria, Slovenia, France, Switzerland and Finland.

Distribution Map Key Features
distribution map

Records for the Lady's Slipper-orchid from BSBI are shown on the map with most recent in front. (Hover the mouse over the small map to expand it.)

CLICK HERE to visit the BSBI website page for updated data and maps with separated data for individual record periods.

Plant: 15 to 70cm tall, stem bright green, hairy with 3 to 4 green or brown sheaths at the base.
Leaves: 3 to 6 large bright-green leaves, which are sparsely hairy; oval then tapering to a pointed tip; deeply veined.
Bracts: Leaflike and green, situated vertically behind the flowers.
Flowers: 1 to 3 large and conspicuous flowers. Sepals deep red with wavy edges. Upper sepal large, oval and tapering to a point, held vertically above the lip of the flower. Petals reddish brown, olive coloured towards the base and twisted. Lip yellow and pouch- or slipper-like.

Image Gallery for Lady's Slipper-orchid Cypripedium calceolus

Pollination Taxonomy & Hybrids

Pollinated by small bees despite no nectar being produced by the plant. Debate continues as to what attracts the insects, with the complex scent of the flower being the main contender.

The specific name calceolus means 'little slipper'.

There are no hybrids, varieties or subspecies in Britain.

Articles about Lady's Slipper-orchid in JHOS