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Venus Shoe/Sabot de Vénus/Frauenschuh

Cypripedium calceolus


Attention, rare! The beautiful and large primitive orchid Cypripedium calceolus is receding fast in many parts of Europe and legally protected in many countries such as Switzerland. It has virtually been wiped out of the UK due to habitat loss and farming practice. It is the only European representative of the subfamily Cypripedioideae.


A deep alpine gorge with sparse mixed pine + deciduous trees and limestone ground, alt. 1700 m ASL. Note: although the location indicated on the map is the right habitat for this orchid it does not reflect the exact location of the plant. This was the only specimen spotted over a hike of several hours in this area. The last shot shows the plant's habitat.


This orchid’s stem reaches 15 to 60 cm high. The single stem usually carries three to five alternate leaves of broad-oval shape. The flowers are hermaphrodite. Generally this species produces only two flowers per individual, very rarely up to three flowers. This specimen had only one large flower. Each flower has three sepals and three petals. The sepals are up to 5 cm long. Their color ranges from reddish brown to chocolate brown, maroon in this case. The two lateral sepals are fused and pointing down under the lip while the central sepal which extends vertically upwards takes the opposite position. Two narrow petals are similar in shape and color as the sepals. These are arranged on both sides the yellow shoe. The shoe arises from a transformation of the third petal, the labellum. It is hoof-shaped, bulbous, yellow and dotted with brown spots. It can reach a length of 4 cm. The flower of the Venus Shoe is one of the largest flowers of the flora of Western Europe, and has the largest flower among European orchids. Apologies for the lack of a good frontal shot: the slope would not permit it. Credit to my hiking companion and husband Marc Robinson for spotting this plant.

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26 Comments (1–25)

Jopy 5 years ago

Wonderful! I saw it only once, can't describe my surprise and happiness... Especially, have found rare Species here in Germany!

DanielePralong 10 years ago

Thank you Ali!

Ali Hemati Pour
Ali Hemati Pour 10 years ago

Very beautiful!

DanielePralong 11 years ago

Thanks J!

Jacob Gorneau
Jacob Gorneau 11 years ago

A beautiful rarity! Thanks for sharing!

DanielePralong 11 years ago

Thank you so much Leuba! I did find another one this summer and this reminds me I haven't posted it yet.

Leuba Ridgway
Leuba Ridgway 11 years ago

I totally missed this one - absolutely beautiful, Daniele ! Thanks for sharing this and for the information. I hope there are more hidden away somewhere, out of man's reach...

DanielePralong 11 years ago

Thank you DianaJ.Limjoco, birdlady6000 and Marta! After not seeing any of these for many years I found another patch of 8 nearby. I will upload those shortly.

The MnMs
The MnMs 11 years ago

Nice idea to place a pic of the area where you found the flower..I shall do the same with my future spottings.

birdlady6000 11 years ago

Thanks for sharing this rare find. We need to be careful that the wildflowers that are still plentiful are kept that way!

DianaJ.Limjoco 11 years ago

Fabulous shots! Thanks for sharing.

DanielePralong 11 years ago

Thank you for your kind words Pam!

pamsai 11 years ago

Beautiful flower Daniele, and beautifully photographed! So sad it is disappearing... Wonderful place for a walk. Lucky we have people like you keeping an eye on these unique flowers!

DanielePralong 11 years ago

Thank you Núria!

Núria 11 years ago


DanielePralong 11 years ago

Thank you very much Sumukha!

Sumukha Javagal
Sumukha Javagal 11 years ago


DanielePralong 11 years ago

Thank you for your comments Ashish and Emma! Emma this is where we can hope Project Noah can help!

Ashish Nimkar
Ashish Nimkar 11 years ago

Lovely... Hi altitude flowers are always awesome..!!
beautiful spotting Daniele...!!

Hema  Shah
Hema Shah 11 years ago

Sometimes knowing the fact that they are disappearing ,helps save them! Lets hope for the best!

DanielePralong 11 years ago

Satyen, Arlanda, Emma, thanks for your comments! For information, in my area out of 38 previously known populations for this orchid there appears to be only 10 remaining. At low altitude it seems to have entirely disappeared, possibly due to climate change.

Hema  Shah
Hema Shah 11 years ago


arlanda 11 years ago

Fantastic spotting, Daniele. Congratulations!

Wild Things
Wild Things 11 years ago

Fabulous series and info. Sad, that we are loosing them. I really liked the habitat :-)

DanielePralong 11 years ago

Thank you Dan! We were thrilled:-)

Spotted by

Graubünden/Grigioni/Grischun, Switzerland

Spotted on Jun 24, 2012
Submitted on Jul 2, 2012

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