This Cypripedium Is a Pearl in Your Garden

Staff
6 Min Read

If you have ever been on a holiday in Switzerland, then you definitely know what a beautiful country this is. Switzerland is an Alpine country, therefore a large part of its cantons consists of mountains, pine forests, lakes, and other beautiful scenery. 

The wild orchid Cypripedium calceolus, also called the lady’s slipper orchid, is one of the most spectacular wild European orchids and occurs naturally in Switzerland. Unfortunately, these plants are also often taken from their natural habitats and the impact is usually so huge that nature hardly recovers itself.

Cypripedium, an Exquisite Wildflower That Possesses a Unique Charm

Cypripedium calceolus is related to the (tropical) Venus’ slipper, a houseplant. In Switzerland, the lady’s slipper can be found in open forests as well as mountain pastures and can tolerate extreme cold and indeed even needs it for its annual growth cycle.

 

Cypripedium calceolus at the Pyrenees along the Spain-France border.
Photo by @oron_peri

 

The flower is found in a genus of exquisite wildflowers that possess a unique charm, stunning colors, and intricate blooms. Not only do they bring beauty and elegance, but they also play a crucial role in biodiversity conservation. 

They are renowned for their captivating beauty and distinctive features. With over 45 species distributed across North and Central America, Europe, and Asia, each Cypripedium offers its own unique allure. 

The plant showcases a diverse range of colors and shapes, with its most prominent feature being the pouch-shaped labellum, which often serves as a pollination strategy. The unique slipper-shaped pouches (modified labella) trap insects. Also, the flowers of Cypripediums, though lacking in nectar production, compensate with their vibrant hues and nice fragrances. 

 

Cypripedium Calceolus, a Charming Beauty
Photo by b52_Tresa

 

Cypripedium calceolus plants are not only fascinating but also hold significant ecological value. Their dependence on specific pollinators and unique habitats makes them indicators of environmental health. 

Even so, although not so common, this variety of Cypripediums has continually disappeared from much of its historical ranges due to habitat loss. 

Cypripedium Calceolus’ Conservation Efforts

Generally, orchids – including Cypripediums – face numerous threats due to habitat destruction, climate change, and illegal trade. For instance, some years ago, two sites with 2,000 Cypripedium calceolus plants were plundered in Switzerland. And the impact of these illegal human actions was so significant.

 

Cypripedium Calceolus, a Charming Beauty
Photo by Jacob Jilg on Wikimedia Commons

 

The Swiss Orchid Foundation, an organization dedicated to the study, conservation, and appreciation of orchids, was more than alarmed by the dwindling population of this wild orchid variety. 

The Foundation, which works to preserve orchids and their habitats, particularly in Switzerland, contacted Anthura, a company that is not only an expert in the propagation and breeding of orchids but also has specific knowledge for growing Cypripedium seedlings. 

In 2018, the two organizations sought to return about 3,000 mature Cypripedium calceolus plants to the wild. Such efforts not only sought to ensure the survival of the Cypripediums but also promote the overall biodiversity of Switzerland.

 

Cypripedium Calceolus, a Charming Beauty
Photo by @dorisfotoalbum

 

The plants were replanted in June 2018 in 44 different secret spots in nine different cantons in Switzerland, where strong populations had been weakened or even completely eradicated. 

Some of these spots were deliberately chosen so that there would be a connection between the populations to allow for an exchange of genetic material, in order to preserve or even increase biodiversity in Switzerland. 

Some of the plants were kept as a backup and for further breeding and production. The reintroduction of these enchanting orchids in nature, also, sought to contribute to the preservation of the Swiss natural environment.

 

Cypripedium Calceolus, a Charming Beauty
Lady’s slipper orchid in the wild in Rašovice, Hradec Králové, Czech Republic.
Photo by @libor.praus

 

A Charming Beauty in Your Own Garden?

To see this plant in real, you don’t have to travel all the way to Switzerland. You can buy this Cypripedium in the spring season at the Better Florist and garden centers such as Intratuin (NL), OhGreen (BE), Jardiland (FR), and Blomsterlandet (SE). This plant, which is part of the garden orchid family, is also available online at Tuinorchidee (NL) and Gartenwerkstatt Schreiner (DE).

When planted, after a well-deserved winter rest, the garden orchids start to work hard. In spring, the new underground shoots make the plant bigger and stronger, and every year they provide more flowers even after a severe winter.

 

Cypripedium Calceolus, a Charming Beauty
Cypripedium calceolus in Drôme, France.
Photo by @laurent_et_ses_obsessions 

 

You can, as a result, enjoy the colorful, frost-resistant, and multiannual Cypripedium in your garden. In April and May, this garden orchid charms with fairytales and special flowers in a floral display that one can enjoy for weeks.  Also, with the purchase of this plant in the store, every consumer contributes a little bit to biodiversity in nature.

If you are interested in learning more about this particular garden orchid or one of the other members of the garden orchid family, check out the Garden Orchid website.

Feature image by Spialia, header image by Magilego on Wikimedia Commons

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