Lady's Slipper may sound like an outdated euphemism from a middling Carry On film (“Matron!”) but is in fact a particularly beautiful type of orchid. Orchids, we feel, often get a bad rep amongst the more discerning flower-lovers out there, associated as they are with generic hospital bedside fodder and the gifts you get your gran when it’s a choice between the standard supermarket orchid and [whatever else it is you can feasibly wrap up and present from a supermarket – bag of Haribo? Four cans of Foster’s for a fiver?].
Delve a little deeper into the orchid family and you’re sure to be seduced by the charms of a well-cultivated lady's slipper (seriously, stop laughing at the back). They’re characterized by the down-turned, slipper-shaped pouches that sit at the base of their flowers, which as well as providing them with a striking appearance, actually act as an insect trap into which unsuspecting creepy crawlies fall. It’s not quite as sinister as it sounds – the insects can clamber back out easily enough, but during their escape they’re forced to pass what’s known as the staminode, from which they collect pollen. Nature, eh?
Native to the UK, a Guardian article on the plant notes that they were collected to near extinction for about four centuries. So popular were they that, by the middle of the twentieth century there was just a single remaining lady slipper orchid remaining, kept in a top secret location until the flower-lover frenzy was finally matched by a vaguely responsible approach to nature’s bounty. Humans, eh?