The Most Spectacular Orchid (to me anyway)Cypripediums
- The grandest and most august of the Orchidaceae, one great race which is supreme alike in the open and under cover, deserves full treatment by itself. - Reginald Farrer (1919) in The English Rock Garden
Cypripediums also called lady's-slippers or moccasin flowers are among the most beautiful and sought after plants on the earth. Records of growing them artificially go back 2,500 years and they have been used medicinally by native peoples in North America and the Far East for centuries. They are characterised by the prominient slipper-shaped lip and their pollination biology was first studied by Charles Darwin. Many species are very rare due to both biological limitations and through over collecting. The lone species found in England has existed as a guarded single plant for over 50 years. The name alludes to Cyprus
, the island that was the mythological birthplace of Apohrodite, and pedilum
, a shoe or slipper and was first used by Linnaeus in 1737.
There are approximately 45 species worldwide. Most are found in termperate North America and Eurasia. Some can be found as far south as Mexico.