Part of the Orchidaceae family, along with around another 800 genera! Spanning the entire globe, even as far as the north as the Arctic tundra. A remarkable group of plants, colourful, intricate, delicate and incredibly varied. Cypripedium itself has around 50 species, across the whole Northern Hemisphere, with one native, our very rare and beautiful C. calceolus, lady's slipper. A dappled shade position, with good moisture, but not boggy, is their preferred conditions. Splitting when overcrowded is helpful in maintaining healthy clumps.

Slipper-orchids are pollinated mostly by bees, attracted by scent, as the flowers have no nectar. It is also suggested queen bees are attracted to the 'hole' in the slipper as they search for nesting cavities. Once inside the slipper, the bees are more-or-less trapped, and can get out only by squeezing past the stigma (depositing any pollen from previous encounters) and then the sticky pollen-masses to reload for the nest flower. Fascinating, but difficult to see what the bees are getting out of this one-sided relationship!


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