With the reintroduction of Cypripedium into nature, Anthura is helping to preserve the natural beauty of Switzerland and its biodiversity.
Cypripedium calceolus is a naturally occurring orchid in Switzerland. It is one of the most spectacular wild European orchids. Unfortunately this has a downside: because of this, the plant is also a target of illegal trade despite the severe penalties involved. A number of years ago, two sites with 2,000 plants were plundered in Switzerland. The impact of these illegal human actions is so big that nature can barely recover from it.
Cypripedium is known as the lady’s slipper orchid and is related to the tropical Venus’ Shoes, a plant that is sometimes sold as a house plant. In addition to Cypripedium, there are 45 other species in the northern hemisphere, some of which even live in Siberia or Alaska. In Switzerland the lady’s slipper can be found in open forests as well as mountain pastures. In contrast to their tropical relatives, the lady’s slipper can tolerate extreme cold and indeed even needs it for its annual growth cycle.
Together with The Swiss Orchid Foundation
The Swiss Orchid Foundation has already tried in previous campaigns, along with hobby growers to put young laboratory plants out into the wild. Because these types of plants are very vulnerable in their first stage of life, they usually failed to survive. Also, the first specimens of plants grown by hobby growers were unsuccessful because breeding Cypripedium seedlings requires highly specialized knowledge. Anthura is the expert in the field of propagation and breeding of orchids and also has the specialist knowledge in-house for the cultivation of Cypripedium seedlings. That’s why the Swiss Orchid Foundation has sought Anthura’s help in growing plants from seed from wild plants and returning 3,000 now mature plants to the wild.
Positive contribution to biodiversity
These plants will be planted in June 2018 over 44 different locations in nine different Swiss cantons. These are places where populations are severely depleted or where it is known that lady’s slippers used to grow but have now been eradicated. Areas that are deemed suitable and that can link existing populations will also be planted in the hope that a bridge will be built over which the exchange of genetic material can take place, thus preserving or even increasing biodiversity. This also avoids the danger of inbreeding.
A number of plants will also be kept as back-up and for further breeding and production. Anthura will start sustainable production of these plants, which will put the illegal trade in check.
Before the start of the main project, a pilot experiment was carried out at a suitable location with mature plants that had been grown by Anthura. At this location Cypripediums have never grown before.
After five years all the plants are still alive and have produced 150 flowers. The large number of fragrant flowers attracts many pollinating insects. The crowning achievement of this test was a number of seedlings that had emerged with the help of Mother Nature herself. The population of artificially propagated plants is now starting to expand naturally!
At the end of June, Anthura will spend several days with a team of volunteers in collaboration with the Foundation to replant 3,000 Cypripedium in natural areas. The plants will be replanted at 44 different locations in the cantons in Switzerland. The Anthura volunteer team will plant the Cypripediums in the Chasseral Regional Park and Gantrisch Nature Park.
It is a special year for Anthura because of its 80th anniversary and the reintroduction of the Cypripedium, which contributes to the conservation of biodiversity.