|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
The single remaining English Lady's-slipper orchid and its recent descendents live on a protected site in Yorkshire which you can't normally visit. By reputation this is guarded by a special botanical branch of the SAS who have a license to kill and nuke your home town should you even ask where the site is. This photo is therefore a reasonable compromise as it is pretty certain that the plant was planted at this North Lancashire site probably more than 80 years ago.
A robust plant, 30-50cm tall, with up to five broad, strongly furrowed and veined, alternate, yellow-green leaves, which sheath the stem. The bract is large and erect, standing up like a hood behind the flower. Most plants carry a single flower, rarely two. The sepals and petals are a deep reddish-brown. The lateral sepals, 3-5cm long, are slightly twisted. The two lower sepals are conjoined, so that the broad sepals and petals form a cross behind the big, yellow, slipper-shaped lip, which is 2-3cm long. The inside of the lip is marked with lines of orange dots. The opening of the pouch-like lip is partly blocked by the large, tongue-shaped staminode which also bears orange dots.
No. of flowers: usually 1
Late May to early June
Reduced to one native site in Yorkshire. Seed collected there was grown under laboratory conditions and, since 1989, seedlings have been re-introduced to sixteen classic sites where it had grown in the past
Steep, grassy slopes at the foot of limestone 'scars', also in light woodland with Ash, Hazel and stunted oak.
Bees of the genus Andrena act as pollinators in Europe, and are present where the orchid grows in Yorkshire. However, they are only attracted to groups of flowers and tend to ignore single plants. The bee enters the 'slipper' easily, but can only get out by pushing between the side of the pouch and the staminode, receiving a dusting of pollen in the process.
Over-collection for specimens and gardens led to the virtual extinction of the Lady's-slipper. Current problems include damage by slugs, snail, voles and rabbits. Public access is strictly controlled.
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