UK: Britain's rarest flower under police guard


Lady's Slipper Orchid (Cypredium calceolus) is probably the UK's rarest wild flower but it's being given extra special protection this year on one of its very few known sites - a golf course in Lancashire.

Conservationists have enlisted a crack squad of police to guard the plant - listed as critically endangered on the UK Red List - and protect it from being stolen. When flowering the rare orchid can be worth the princely sum of £5,000 - not bad for something that was once widespread across the north of England - and there is reputedly talk of CCTV being set up on the site too. Many of the plants have been disturbed or damaged in recent years by collectors.

Not surprisingly this tactic has raised some eyebrows about local police resource use, but can a price be put on nature? The plan would probably be less controversial if the orchid was limited only to the UK. In fact it's found globally and despite being very rare in many countries it's probably not in immediate danger of global extinction.

Lady's Slipper has declined in the UK because of over-collection, habitat losses and changes in farming practices with one of the biggest causes of decline being the over nitrification of the landscape - a product of industrial fertiliser use.

It classically flowers in late May and early June, and we await with interest the results of this rather radical protection programme.

Cypredium calceolus on Arkive

UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) for Cypredium calceolus

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