Ladylike: Yellow and Purple Lady Slippers
Meet the most fashionable member of Orchid family! Cypripedium calceolus lacks the characteristic pollinia of orchids. Instead, it has a stack of pollens at the end of stamens. It is also popularly known as Lady’s Slipper Orchid or Yellow Lady’s Slipper for its distinct footwear shape. It is widespread in Spain, Northeastern China, Korea, Rebun Island (Japan), Russia, Siberia and in most part of Europe. However, we are covering these in this series as one of the rarest flowers because these have been uprooted in the U.K entirely.
The gardeners and botanists are often blamed for their extinction. Habitat destruction by humans and over grazing by the sheep can also be counted as one of the main reasons for their extinction.
So much that according to a news report, Britain’s last plant of lady’s slipper orchid was guarded heavily than the queen itself when it was about to bloom! A day-night police protection was provided around the fence, a protected golf course site, to protect the flower from thieves. It was security tagged to prevent thugs to snip a cut. Hourly patrol and CCTV surveillance were ordered as well. The market value of a twig could fetch up to over £5,000 and the flower’s cost could go more than hundred thousand of pounds. All because, it is extinct and now deems to be priceless! See the irony!
However, a reintroduction program has already taken place for the cultivation of the orchid. It is a perennial herb and the underground tuber pumps up the new growth seasons after season. The stems are covered with hair. Each stem outgrows about three to four pleated and upside-curved leaves. It has a flower stack, and usually can grow about one or two flowers that are twisted spirally. In its natural habitat, the plant could grow up to three flowers while the color could be green or yellow as opposed to the glasshouse maroon.
Lady’s slipper doesn’t have any nectar formation that pollinators like bees or insects can eat. The pleasant fragrance of flowers and yellow labellum attract them, and when the insects sit, the pollens stick to them resulting in the pollination. The fragrance of the flowers is quite similar to the pheromones produced by burrowing bees.
Though, the edge of flower sack is quite slippery and small insects are unable to find their way out when trapped in it.
The natural habitat of plant tends to be moist or little dry. They don’t love sun much and share a symbiotic relationship with fungus ‘mycorrhiza.’ The gardeners and botanists have learned to process this fungus in glasshouses where the plants are developed and grown in a controlled environment.
Where you can see this sassy, classy and gorgeous flower in action:
The flowers vary, in general and the species has five genera so far.
- Cyperipedium is found in North America, Asia and Europe.
- Paphiopedilum finds abode in North China, Southern China and Southeast Asia’s tropical forest. This sub-species is very popular with gardening enthusiasts due to its viable nature.
- Phragmipedium is also very easy to grow and needs lower temperature. And hence, finds habitat in cooler areas of Northern South and Central America where greenhouses aren’t needed to grow them.
- Mexipedium is found in Mexico’s Oaxaca.
- Central and South America is home to Selenipedium.
- During a program by Pavel Ivanovich Melnikov, a woman called the plant as Cuckoo’s sleepers, Adam’s Grass or Adam’s Head. She also suggested its tribal use to ward off evil eyes.
- The pink lady’s slipper, Cypripedium acaule was adopted as floral emblem in the year 1947 by the Canadian province, Prince Edward Island.
- Showy lady’s slipper, Cypripedium reginae is the state flower of Minnesota.
- The botanical name, Cypripedium calceolus means shoes of Venus. A legend has it that a shepherdess was sent to find Venus’s slipper from the woods, but when she found them and tried to pick them up, they transformed into the flower.