Page last updated at 10:41 GMT, Friday, 7 May 2010 11:41 UK

Lancashire orchid bud gets police protection

Lady's Slipper orchid
Hundreds of people visit the orchid on Silverdale Golf Course each year

Britain's rarest wild flower will receive police protection from thieves when it blooms later this month at a Lancashire golf course.

The single Lady's Slipper orchid is due to flower on Silverdale Golf Course, Carnforth, where it is visited by hundreds of enthusiasts each year.

Police are setting up extra patrols to try to prevent damage and theft.

They may also install CCTV and tag it with a dye to deter thieves intent on stealing cuttings worth up to £5,000.

The protected orchid, whose Latin name is Cypripedium calceolus, has been illegally cut twice in the past six years.

It is believed to have been planted on the course in the 1800s, and is thought to be from central Europe.

People are often overcome with emotion at the sight
Pc Tony Marsh

Horticulturalists have tried to re-introduce the purple and yellow species in other areas but none of them have flowered.

Pc Tony Marsh, of Lancashire police, said: "The Lady's Slipper orchid is an incredibly important plant, having survived for over 100 years when all other plants were thought extinct.

"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."

The orchid is protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and anyone who interferes with the plant could be fined £5,000 and jailed for six months.



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SEE ALSO
Police investigate orchid theft
03 Jun 09 |  England
Damaged rare orchid 'blossoming'
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