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Special Areas of Conservation

1902 Lady's-slipper orchid Cypripedium calceolus

Higher plant species

Description and ecological characteristics

This orchid with large, solitary flowers with maroon-brown petals and a pouched yellow lip is found in open woodlands on calcareous soils, usually on north-facing slopes. In the UK all recorded sites appear to be scrubby woods of oak Quercus spp., ash Fraxinus excelsior and hazel Corylus avellana on steep rocky limestone slopes, although in mainland Europe it is found in various types of woodland to altitudes of over 2000 m. The plant is perennial, with stems rising from an underground rhizome.

Distribution of SACs/SCIs/cSACs with species 1902 Cypripedium calceolus. Click image for enlarged map.

European status and distribution

Lady’s-slipper orchid Cypripedium calceolus is widely distributed through northern, central, eastern and south-east Europe, westwards to Norway and the south-west Alps and eastwards across Asia to Sakhalin Island on the Pacific coast. It has become rare and threatened over much of its range.

UK status and distribution

Lady’s-slipper orchid Cypripedium calceolus has always been local in the UK, formerly occurring in limestone districts of Derbyshire, Yorkshire, County Durham and Cumbria. Primarily because of collecting by botanists and others, it is now known as a native plant at a single locality in Yorkshire. Until recently only a single individual plant survived, but careful habitat management and artificial propagation under English Nature’s Species Recovery Programme is being used to increase the population in the wild, and the species has been planted at a number of additional locations.

View UK distribution of this species.

Site selection rationale

The single remaining native site for this species has been selected

Site accounts

  • Craven Limestone Complex North Yorkshire
    Craven Limestone Complex is the single remaining native site for Lady’s-slipper orchid Cypripedium calceolus. Formerly reduced to a single plant, careful habitat management, together with hand-pollination of the few flowers that appear, and more recently re-establishment of plants from ex-situ propagation, has led to a steady increase in the size of the colony.

Many designated sites are on private land: the listing of a site in these pages does not imply any right of public access.