Friday 13 May 2011: Lady's Slipper Orchid
One of Britain's rarest plants. Here growing in the Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve in Lancashire.
The Lady's Slipper was never a common plant in Britain, confined to limestone woodlands in three counties in northern England. The depredations of collectors and gardeners reduced the native population to a single site in Yorkshire. It's location is a closely guarded secret, and the plant itself is closely guarded during the flowering season. There are many professional conservationists who have done 24 hour wardening duties as one of their first conservation jobs. There is another plant, derived from introduced stock, that grows near Silverdale in Lancashire. Its location is better known, though still watched over when flowering.
In recent years there has been a Recovery Programme for the plant led by Natural England and its predecessor English Nature, and harnessing the skills of Kew Gardens in propagation of these plants from their dust-like seeds. This has generated a large number of small plants which are being planted in to locations from which they were historically recorded. We are now starting to see these plants coming into flower. I can speak of the location of this plant, because Natural England have put up signs directing people to where it is found. I was surprised this morning to find their flowering so far advanced, I had expected to see them in a week or two's time.
It's a miracle that these plants once seeded and established themselves naturally. When they are small they are desperately vulnerable to the predations of mice, voles and particularly slugs. The plants here and elsewhere have copper rings placed over their emergent shoots in the hope of deterring slugs. More desperate measures are the slug pellets strewn about around them. It's ironic as I would never think of using slug pellets in my own garden, I work on the principle of growing mainly plants that are reasonably slug-proof.
This blip follows on rather more quickly than is usual for me from yesterday's cheep shot, so if you haven't seen that, please take a look.
The waves of sadness have still been breaking over me today. Perhaps it didn't help that I listened to Ryan Adams singing Strawberry Wine. Exquisitely beautiful and melancholy.