Reintroduction of Cypripedium calceolus in Switzerland:
one year later


One year after the replanting of Cypripedium calceolus in the Swiss countryside, it was time to see for ourselves how the plants survived.

Cypripedium calceolus (Lady’s Slipper) is found in the Alpine region as well as Germany, Scandinavia and even the United Kingdom, where it is monitored by cameras every minute of the day. The plant is almost certainly one of the most spectacular wild orchids in Europe. Unfortunately, this is also the reason why the plant is popular in the illegal trade, with the result that Cypripedium calceolus is threatened with extinction in almost all the places where it occurs naturally. This was also the case in Switzerland, where the Swiss Orchid Foundation, after a number of fruitless attempts to release young plants into the wild, contacted Anthura. Anthura’s specialist knowledge of the cultivation of Cypripedium seedlings helped in the cultivation of around 3,000 fully-grown plants, grown from the seeds of native wild plants.

Reintroduction of Cypripedium calceolus

One year ago, in June 2018, the replanting of the mature Cypripedium calceolus in the Swiss countryside marked the end of a journey of about four years. That is the time it took to consult with the various cantons, collect seed tubers, obtain all the necessary import and export documents, determine the right locations and cultivate the plants. After a group of 15 volunteers from Anthura, together with members of the Swiss Orchid Foundation and the nine participating cantons, had planted the orchids in 44 locations, the logical question was how the plants would develop.

One year later

The summer of 2018 was very hot and dry in Switzerland. Throughout the summer, the plants, all of which are located in secret and inaccessible places, were cared for and watered by volunteers. The winter, on the other hand, was long and cold, and it was not until the very end of May that the snow had melted in most places. In order to see for themselves whether the plants had survived these extreme conditions, a few Anthura employees, including project leader Camiel de Jong, together with people from the Swiss Orchid Foundation, visited a number of locations.


And the dream came true! A check showed that about 85% of all plants survived last year. The plants have also produced new shoots (10-15 cm) and flower buds are visible. At the lower locations the plants are in full bloom. At one location, where literally only one original plant still existed, more than 170 flowers were counted. It is now up to the plants to continue to grow and eventually to multiply naturally. The locations will, of course, remain secret.

Biodiversity

The project has received a lot of media attention in Switzerland and garden centres and retailers there have dedicated articles to this in their magazines and mailings. They offer the Cypripediums propagated by Anthura in the shops and these plants have proved to be very popular. By buying them in the shop, consumers can make a small contribution towards biodiversity. In addition to the reintroduction of the plants themselves, the fact that the illegal trade has been outsmarted is almost as important for the success of this great project.