11.5.10

RARE

Britain's rarest wild flower is to be protected
by extra police patrols and possibly even
CCTV in an attempt to stop it being s
tolen when it flowers this month.


The Lady's Slipper orchid at Silverdale
Golf Course in Carnforth, Lancashire,
is the last remaining flowering
plant in the country.

Although experts have tried to re-introduce the
purple and yellow bloom in other areas, none
of them have flowered. Cuttings from
the plant can fetch up to £5,000.


Lancashire Police is now mounting a security
campaign for the flower amid concerns thieves
may strike in May or June when it flowers.

Officers have been ordered to 'ensure the safety'
of the orchid by including it in their routine foot
patrols every hour. They will also tag the
100-year-old rarity with a coded security
mark so that anyone who tries to sell
a cutting to wildflower collectors
can be caught.

Last June a thief took a cutting from the plant,
leaving it with just six flowers, and in 2004
a collector tried to dig it up entirely by
its roots, but managed to get away
with just a part of the plant.

PC Duncan Thomas, wildlife officer for
Lancashire Constabulary, said the orchid -
whose Latin name is Cypripedium
calceolus - was "incredibly
important".

"The Lady Slipper orchid is an incredibly
important plant, having survived for over a
hundred years. It is iconic to many people
who enjoy wildlife in Britain. People travel
from all ends of the country on what is
almost a pilgrimage to view the plant
in bloom and are often overcome
with emotion at the sight."


Rob Petley-Jones, of Natural England, said:
"It is completely illegal to even touch
this plant, you would need a
special licence for it."


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