Cypripedium calceolus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Liliopsida Asparagales Orchidaceae

Scientific Name: Cypripedium calceolus L.
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Lady's Slipper Orchid
French Sabot de Vénus
Spanish Zapatito de Dama
Calceolus marianus (Crantz) Rouy
Calceolus alternifolius St.-Lag.
Cypripedium atsmori C.Morren
Cypripedium boreale Salisb
Cypripedium cruciatum Dulac
Cypripedium ferrugineum Gray
Cypripedium microsaccos Kraenzl.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2014
Date Assessed: 2013-03-27
Assessor(s): Rankou, H. & Bilz, M.
Reviewer(s): Fay, M. & Sharma, J.
Contributor(s): Bazos, I., Dostalova, A., Gygax, A., Király, G., Illarionova, I., Peraza Zurita, M.D. & Rasomavicius, V.

Cypripedium calceolus is widespread and the trend of the population is stable. Some of the subpopulations in parts of its range are declining due numerous threats especially collection by enthusiasts, but most of them are stable or even increasing in other parts due to conservation measures that have been implemented. 

Neither the geographic range of the species nor the size of the populations fall within the thresholds for any of the threatened categories and the existing threats for the species and habitats are unlikely to cause the populations to decline quickly in the near future. Moreover, the halt in declines is due to the current conservation and protection measures in place and the rate of decline would be more severe should these measures be stopped. This orchid is therefore assessed as Least Concern.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

Cypripedium calceolus is widespread being found across Europe except the extreme north and south, and in the Crimea, Mediterranean, Asia Minor, western and eastern Siberia, Far East of Russia and south of Sakhalin Island. 

Cypripedium calceolus can be found in northern England and Scandinavia, eastern France, NE Spain, Germany, N Italy and Eastern Europe eastwards to European Russia, Siberia, N Sakhalin, Korea, NE China (Heilongjiang, Kirin and Inner Mongolia) and Japan (Rebun Island). 

The species can be found from sea level  up to 2,100 m altitude.

Sources: Cribb 1997, Delforge 1995, Frosch and Cribb 2012, GIROS 2009, Harrap 2009, Lang 2004,  Tsiftsis et al. 2007, and Vakhrameeva et al. 2008.

Countries occurrence:
Austria; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; China (Heilongjiang, Jilin, Nei Mongol); Croatia; Czech Republic; Denmark; Finland; France (France (mainland)); Germany; Hungary; Italy (Italy (mainland)); Japan (Hokkaido); Korea, Democratic People's Republic of; Latvia; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Moldova; Montenegro; Norway; Poland; Romania; Russian Federation (Central European Russia, Eastern Asian Russia, East European Russia, North European Russia, Northwest European Russia, South European Russia); Serbia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain (Spain (mainland)); Sweden; Switzerland; Ukraine (Krym, Ukraine (main part)); United Kingdom
Regionally extinct:
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:2600
Upper elevation limit (metres):2100
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


Cypripedium calceolus is widespread and the population trend is stable now but the species has undergone severe declines in the past, especially due to its collection by enthusiasts. The population is still declining in parts of its range but is stable or even increasing in other parts due to conservation measures that have been implemented. 

The number of mature individuals is approximately 1,000,000 in Sweden alone.

In the Czech Republic, there are many localities (thousands) but they are generally very small in size (about 13 km² throughout the country). Many Natura 2000 sites have been established around the populations. The number of individuals in each location is usually low, and the total population does not exceed 3,000 individuals. There is an average of 100 individuals in each locality. Only nine localities have larger populations (100-400 individuals) and some localities have only a few dozen individuals. The populations are commonly fragmented, forming small scattered patches. 

In Hungary, it occurs at no more than eight localities where it was formerly known from more than 20. This decrease has happened during the last century. The number of localities has remained constant over the last ten years but the number of individuals has been continuously  decreasing. There are 1,400-1,700 individuals in total. 

In Lithuania, the species is fragmented and has restricted populations. There are 50 sites mostly restricted to the southeast, central and northern part of the country. Ten sites host over 200 individuals; one has more than 3,000 individuals and the rest are very variable, from a few dozen up to a few hundred individuals.

In Poland, there are historical records for over 200 localities in the Polish lowlands, but most of them have been lost especially in western Poland. At present it can be found at several tens of scattered localities with a higher concentration in the Kraków-Częstochowa Jura Upland, the Lublin Upland, Roztocze region and the Biebrza River Valley. In the Carpathian mountains, the populations are small and have been reported from the Tatra Mts., the Pieniny Mts. and the Słonne Mts. (Kalinka and Nowak 2004).

In Switzerland, it has a geographic range of 580 km², the population has several thousand individuals, and it is found throughout mountains and flat areas. On the flat areas the population seems to be slightly fragmented. In the lower regions the population is slightly declining and in others it is more or less stable.
In Slovakia, it occurs in more than 100 localities from the Biele Karpaty Mts to Humenné. It is found sporadically in the central Carpathians populations range from a few tens to hundreds of plants. It becomes more rare in the rest of the country. The populations are more or less stable. 

In Bulgaria and the UK, the plant is assessed as Critically Endangered under D which means that there are less than 50 mature individuals (Petrova and Vladimirov 2009, Cheffings and Farrell 2005).
In Norway, a population decline of 15-30% has been observed in the past and is assumed to continue in the future (Artsdatabanken 2010).

In Spain, the plant reaches the south-western limit of its range. There are c. 1300 mature individuals in total with decreasing populations (Bañares et al. 2004).

In Russia, the species population is small and occurs sparsely in small groups. The abundance of the species in Moscow region range from single plant to more than 1500 individuals. Adult plants usually dominate in populations (53-74%), the number of flowering plants depends on the age and light and varies from 4 to 37% (Vakhrameeva et al. 2008).

The following population data has been provided (Commission of the European Communities 2009): 

  • Austria: 51,000 to 102,000 individuals
  • Denmark: 247-1,440 shoots, 426 individuals in 2003
  • France: 518 - 537 localities
  • Estonia: 10,000 - 75,000 individuals
  • Italy: 199 localities
  • Latvia: 23 localities
  • Lithuania: 43-50 localities
  • Poland: 16-20 localities and 20,000-50,000 individuals
  • Sweden: 1,002,000 individuals
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

Cypripedium calceolus has typical habitats that include open woodland, scrub under conifers (Quercus, Fraxinus,Corylus), forest margins, grasslands, forests with oak, hornbeam, beech, spruce and pine and ravine forests, thermophile woodland fringes, Picea taiga woodland. Furthermore, it grows in narrow-leaved dry grassland or broad-leaved dry grassland. It is found in fens, including eutrophic tall-herb fens and calcareous flushes and soaks as well as broad-leaved swamp woodland not on acid peat. The seeds can be transported by wind over several hundred kilometres.

Cypripedium calceolus prefers partial shade in lime-rich soils over limestone and rocky places. The species flowers in May and June. 

This plant grows in the following Habitats Directive listed habitats (Commission of the European Communities 2009):

  • 9020 Fennoscandian hemiboreal natural old broad-leaved deciduous forests (Quercus, Tilia, Acer, Fraxinus or Ulmus) rich in epiphytes
  • 9050 Fennoscandian herb-rich forests with Picea abies
  • 9150 Medio-European limestone beech forests of the Cephalanthero-Fagion
  • 9160 Sub-Atlantic and medio-European oak or oak-hornbeam forests of the Carpinion betuli
  • 9180 Tilio-Acerion forests of slopes, screes and ravines
The generation length is thought to be ≥10 years (Artsdatabanken 2010).
Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):10

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Collection of this attractive orchid is forbidden in most countries but it still happens. An extract from the species has been used as sedative, treatment for nervous disorders and as a stimulant. The glandular hairs on the leaves and stems can cause a rash, similar to poison ivy rash upon contact and some part of these plants may be known to be mildly to severely toxic to either animals and/or humans (Medicinal Plant Working Group 2002, Plants For a Future 2010).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

Cypripedium calceolus is under numerous threats especially habitat destruction, agriculture intensification, inappropriate forest management such as clear cutting, use of herbicides and pesticides, equipment use that can severely compact the soil, road and trail construction and collection. 

In addition to browsing, grazing can pose a threat in two different ways: overgrazing affects the individuals whereas the abandonment of traditional grazing activities leads to natural succession processes and therefore increased competition for this orchid. The replacement of the natural forest with spruce plantations has caused habitat degradation as the soil is affected by de-calcification processes and this species is linked to calcareous soils.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: All orchids are included under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It is also listed on Annex II of the Habitats Directive and under Appendix I of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention). This orchid is included in several national red lists as threatened:
  • Regionally Extinct in Luxembourg
  • Critically Endangered in Bulgaria, Serbia and the United Kingdom
  • Endangered in Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia, and Spain
  • Vulnerable in Austria, Belarus, Denmark, France, Germany, Lithuania, Slovakia, and Switzerland
  • Near Threatened in Finland and Norway
  • Least Concern in Sweden
It is protected at national level in most countries (e.g. France, Hungary) and collection of the species is forbidden (e.g. Lithuania). Many populations are included in Natura 2000 sites and other forms of protected areas. The protection of the sites and appropriate management are essential.

However, the following actions are recommended to protect Cypripedium calceolus from further pressure: 

- Protection of the sites from habitat loss and disturbance, trampling and agriculture intensification.

- Protection of the sites by avoiding activities that alter or remove soil, duff, or the organic matter in the species habitat area.

- Fencing the vulnerable sites to protect the species from collection and herbivores.

 - Sympathetic management of isolated populations.

- Maintain sufficient lights and solar radiation on the species and the forest floor.

- Raising of public awareness.

- Ex situ conservation: artificial propagation, re-introduction, seed collections.

- Monitoring and surveillance of the existing populations and sites.

- Estimation of population sizes and study their dynamics. 

Citation: Rankou, H. & Bilz, M. 2014. Cypripedium calceolus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T162021A43316125. . Downloaded on 15 October 2018.
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