Ladys Slipper Orchid
The wonderful and very rare Lady’s Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium calceolus) has been in flower again this June. The Valley de Tena is luck enough to have a population of around a dozen of these fantastic plants.
It’s one of only 3 populations left in the Pyrenees – the others are in the Valle de Pineta and the Cataluynan Pyrenees. They were discovered by a French botanist in the 80′s right next to a new road to Formigal. Whlst they are in flower they are guarded continuously. Around 6 plants are in an area where you can walk and photograph them and the others are kept behind a roped walkway. The guardian tells me that in the area where peole can walk no new orchids are growing while in the roped area lots of new plants are coming up which is great news.
The orchids take 8 to 10 years to mature and flower and can live up to 30 or even 40 years. They are the largest orchid flower in Europe and is the only variety of Lady’s Slipper Orchid that grows here – there are around 47 members in teh family in total but the ohers grow only in either the US or Far East.
The flower is actually a kind of trap for insects. They climb in after the flowers sweet nectar but the inside is very slippery and they get caught in the bowl. While they are struggling to get out they get well and truly covered in pollen which they hopefully take on to the next plant.
In the UK there is just one remaining truly wild plant althoug they used to be widespread in limestone areas such as the Yorkshire Dales. It’s location is a closely guarded secret. A reintroduction program means that there are now many more ‘wild’ plants.
A truly impressive flower that’s a must see for flower enthusiasts.