Moscow Region Wild Orchid

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We continue the series of small articles about the life of the protected forest and its inhabitants.

No matter how surprising the weather is with its cold mornings, low temperatures all day round, frequent rains and small glimpses of sunny weather, many plants still flower in the reserve according to their own plan.

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Only recently a rare plant started flowering on a clearing in the wood, which always delights our eyes. It is the lady’s slipper or Cypripedium calceolus L. from orchid family. It is a real orchid of the temperate zone. To see this flower on a shadowy hillock in a mingled wood is a fascinating experience. The plant is the pride of Moscow region and is a study subject for many botanists.

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The name of this plant can be explained by the unusual form of its flower – big, red-brown with yellow, with sweet scent and looks like an elegant slipper. The lower yellow petals are fused together and form a so called labellum or lip, which is the characteristic trait of the family.

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The lady’s slipper is a perennial plant with thick creeping root, stem of 20 to 50 cm and one or more flowers. The leaves are of elliptic shape. The plant likes moist but not dump soils, but it can be seen even on dry soils. It prefers light shade and survives during frosts.

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The plants flower for the first time on the 15-17 year of their life and flower for 20 days. An unfertilized flower can be fresh for up to three weeks and a fertilized one – only for 2 or 3 days. Common pollinators for this plant are bees, bugs and flies.

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This extraordinary plant is picked for bouquets and for replanting in gardens. It dies during forest fell and land development. It leads to the reduction of the species and there is a danger of extinction in many regions of Russia. The lady-s slipper is the first plant of Orchid family, which was put under protection (in 1878 in Switzerland) and is now under protection in many European countries, including Russia. This species is included in the Red Data Book of Russia and of many regions and republics.

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Not everybody knows how delicate is the living structure of nature and how easy it is for a human to disrupt the harmony of these vital interconnections. We will continue to tell you about interesting and important events on our protected territory – a unique part of Moscow region.

G.V. Sokolov, Laborotory Assistant and Researcher

Photo by О.Kalinina