The rare Lady's Slipper orchid to star at Wild About Orchids Festival

One of Britain's rarest exotic flowers is the star attraction at the first orchid festival at Kilnsey Park nature reserve

The print version of this article appeared in the June 2012  issue of Yorkshire Life 

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Plant lovers are expected to flock to a the Wild About Orchids festival at Kilnsey Park nature reserve this month to see the much prized Lady’s Slipper orchid.

It will be available for viewing at the reserve which was one of the first places to be chosen to reintroduce the rare plant which was declared extinct in Britain in 1917.

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The reserve, fed by a limestone spring, has more than 150 species of wildflowers, orchids and grasses, an unusually high number for a twohectare site.

The Lady’s Slipper orchid (Cypripedium Calceolus) was thought extinct until a single plant was rediscovered growing at a remote location in the Yorkshire Dales in 1930. The orchid remains closely protected and thrives today, but the privately owned site where it was found is too fragile to allow viewing. In the 17th century the plant was dug up for gardens and collections as early and is known to have been sold at Skipton and Settle markets in Victorian times.

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Today, a group called the Cypripedium Committee co-ordinates conservation work for the plant.

The group, working with Kew Gardens over many decades of intensive conservation activity, has successfully reintroduced the orchid back into the countryside on a number of sites, including the Kilnsey Estate, which was selected as one of the first opportunities to see this orchid in the wild. The plant is guarded during its flowering period each year to prevent theft or damage.

The inaugural Wild About Orchids Festival from June 4th -10th not only promises an opportunity to view the plant, although flowering is not guaranteed, but also to be a fun day our for all the family with special talks by experts who have helped to conserve the orchid, as well as guided walks, a range of children’s activities and a special ‘Orchid High Tea’ served in the estate caf�.

Jamie Roberts, managing partner at Kilnsey, is the fourth generation of the Roberts family to live and work on the estate. He has worked in conservation for 10 years, most recently as director of the National Trust on the remote British territory of St Helena in the South Atlantic. There he was responsible for helping to save the Bastard Gumwood, the world’s rarest tree, from extinction.

He said: ‘The Lady’s Slipper is a particular passion and fascination of mine and has been since childhood.

I remember vividly being taken to see the orchid when I was a young boy.I wasn’t told where I was being taken only that it was a very special plant and that I couldn’t tell anyone else about it. Even at a young age the flower struck me as being incredibly beautiful. I’m one of the lucky ones, because even today the site remains a secret to all but a handful of conservationists.’

Wild About Orchids is part of the Flowers of the Dales Festival 2012.

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