A love of the Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium calceolus)0
When I was 15 years old I was given a Christmas present of a remarkable book – The Concise British Flora in Colour by the Rev W. Keble Martin, a country parson who, spent many years traveling in his spare time and drawing the specimens he found…1486 of them are illustrated.
Tucked away at the bottom left-hand of plate 82 lies a flower so exotic in appearance that I immediately fell in love with its beauty – a yellow, inflated clog backed by maroon/brown sepals and petals. That flower was, of course the Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium calceolus) that, at the time of Keble Martin’s writing was on the point of extinction, restricted to a woodland site in Yorkshire. Matters have improved thanks to the efforts of a propagation and re-introduction programme run by Kew.
It was not for another 14 years that the dream I had of seeing it became a reality and I sat and thought of this just a day or so ago as I sat on the banks of a clear torrent listening to its sound and just gazing at the few flowers that had not gone over. I have made this pilgrimage into the Abruzzo region of Italy’s Apennines for the past three years, never quite sure of when the flowers will be at their best…this year was the earliest I had been and yet flowers were past their best. Two years ago and five days later there were blooms in abundance and yet all other orchid species I have found this year were ‘late’…such is the capriciousness of a family that one can never take for granted.
It was one of those days – 3 hours each way to get to the site and another 3 hours of work and just sitting to take it all in…and also, this time, to capture it as moving images. I worked, standing in this stream, feet a shade of blue that contrasted with the light limestone of the stream bed…
Here are some of the shots that I hope convey the basis of my love of this flower – I have written a post on this already with some detail of both botany and of the legends attached to this plant. Stops en route revealed other orchidaceous beauties: the delicate flowers of the lesser butterfly orchid (Platanthera bifolia) and the exquisite and rare red helleborine (Cephalanthera rubra). Again, and I have lost count of the number of times, I found myself think Oh Lucky Man…..!
lesser butterfly orchid (Platanthera bifolia)
red helleborine (Cephalanthera rubra)
By Paul Harcourt Davies, Italy