Yellow lady's slipper

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Yellow lady's slipper
Yellow lady's slipper (Cypripedium calceolus)

Yellow lady's slipper ( Cypripedium calceolus )

Family : Orchids (orchidaceae)
Subfamily : Cypripedioideae
Genre : Lady's slipper ( cypripedium )
Type : Yellow lady's slipper
Scientific name
Cypripedium calceolus

The yellow lady's slipper or yellow lady's slipper ( Cypripedium calceolus ) is also called the red-brown lady's slipper , the lady's slipper (the flower of the yellow lady's slipper is mentioned in legends in connection with the Virgin Mary ), the European lady's slipper or, more often, just the lady's slipper. The shape of the flower also led to the name "Kriemhilds Helm" or "Krimhilds Helm". The yellow lady's slipper is one of the most magnificent wild growing orchid species in Europe and is protected in all countries according to the Habitats Directive Annex II. It belongs to the genus of women shoes ( Cypripedium ) in the family of orchids (Orchidaceae) and is the type species of this genus.

In order to draw attention to the particular endangerment and need for protection of this species, the yellow lady's slipper was elected Orchid of the Year by the local orchids working group in 1996 and 2010 .


Illustration by Jacob Sturm (1796)
Two-flowered shoot

The yellow lady's slipper is a perennial herbaceous plant that reaches heights of 15 to 60 cm. On the slightly curved and hairy stem there are three to five broadly elliptical, stem-encompassing leaves that taper towards the outside. These have a length between 5 and 13 cm. The light green leaves show fine downy hairs on the underside of the leaves. The strong veins are also clearly visible. The leaves are stiffened by longitudinal folds and thereby divert the rainwater towards the stem.

As a rule, the individual shoots are single-flowered, often with good growth of the plant they also have two flowers, rarely three or four.

The hermaphrodite, zygomorphic flowers are threefold. The four outer purple to chocolate brown tepals are about 5 cm long. They show a pointed-lanceolate shape and surround the yellow “shoe” standing out wide. The narrow petals are often twisted a bit. The very large, bright yellow lip is formed by an inner tepal and shaped into a bulbous shoe. When the flower stalk bends over, the flowers rotate 180 ° when opened, which means that the labellum is originally the upper, inner tepal of the flower. The shoe reaches a length of 4 to 8 cm. The flowers of the lady's slipper are among the largest in our flora and represent the largest single flowers among European orchids. Two stamens are fertile. In Central Europe, the lady's slipper begins to bloom in mid-May and lasts until the end of June.

The lady's slipper is pollinated by insects. Due to its kettle trap-like pollination device, self-pollination is practically impossible.

Single-compartment dry capsules containing tiny seeds are formed as fruits . They are spread out by the wind as grain fliers.

The fruit ripeness extends from July to September.

The number of chromosomes is 2n = 20 or 22.


Detail flower

This species is a so-called kettle trap flower . Potential pollinators are attracted by both the color of the perianth and the apricot-like scent of the plant. Insects , especially sand bees of the genus Andrena (e.g. the red-headed sand bee, Andrena haemorrhoa ) and other small and powerful insect species, penetrate the kettle through the hole at the base of the label or fall into the kettle, whose smooth and shiny walls (with Oil coating) prevents an exit. The only way out of the trap is via two hair stairs in the back wall of the slipper, under the genital apparatus ( gynostemium ), to the outside. The way to the hair stairs is shown to the animals by translucent areas ("windows") in the rear slipper wall. The hair stairs were previously interpreted as lining hair, which has now been revised. When exiting, they must first squeeze under the stigma and then under one of the two stamens. In this way, the scar is touched first and then at least one of the two sticky pollen masses. This arrangement is intended to prevent self-pollination . Women's shoes offer the pollinating insects no food and are therefore considered to be flowers of deception . Sometimes predatory spiders, such as crab spiders , lurk in the kettles and turn them into deadly traps.

In contrast to most orchids, the pollen grains in an anthers compartment are not connected to form a mass, a pollinium . At the time of pollination, the ovules are not yet mature.

Self-pollination is not intended for the yellow lady's slipper. The presence of its main pollinator is therefore an essential prerequisite for successful fruit set. The pollinating sand bees are dependent on sparsely overgrown sandy soils or sandy-loam soils. In addition, the distance between two Frauenschuh locations must not exceed 500 meters.

Way of life

The yellow lady's slipper is a rhizome - geophyte . In contrast to most other types of orchid, the lady's slipper has no tubers. It forms thickened rhizomes covered with scales as storage organs through which vegetative spread can also take place. If the site conditions are favorable, the lady's slipper can form larger clumps through its rhizome. At the end of the growing season, the above-ground plant dies as ramet . The buds for the next year's shoots develop towards the end of the flowering period. The buds overwinter just below the surface of the earth.
The plant lives in
symbiosis with a fungus of the genus Rhizoctonia . This fungus is used for nutrition for years before the first green leaf is created after about four years. It can take 16 years for it to flower .

Individuals can live for several hundred years.


Yellow lady's slipper in the habitat , a steppe heather slope in the Rhön ( Thuringia )

The distribution area extends from northern to central and eastern Europe , from Asia to Japan , whereby the yellow lady's slipper is the only naturally occurring lady's slipper species in Germany. It preferentially grows sporadically in shady deciduous forests (such as beech forests) or on bushy mountain slopes up to altitudes of 2000  m .

Well-known deposits are visited by larger crowds each year during the heyday. In Switzerland , for example, it is the Gastern Valley in the Bernese Oberland , the landslide area in Goldau (municipality of Arth) and the Val Sinestra near Vnà / Sent in the Lower Engadine . The Lech Valley has the largest deposits in Austria . In Lower Saxony near the town of Bevern there is a larger occurrence on the so-called Burgberg. The Frauenschuh can also be found in Thuringia near Großkochberg in the Saalfeld-Rudolstadt district.

Vertical spread

In the Allgäu Alps in Bavaria, between Bergerhöfle and Angerer-Hütte, southwest of Einödsbach , it rises up to 1550 meters above sea level. According to Baumann and Künkele , the species has the following altitude limits in the Alpine countries: Germany 10–1540 meters, France 500–1820 meters, Switzerland 360–2000 meters, Liechtenstein 440–1700 meters, Austria 250–1850 meters, Italy 500–2200 meters, Slovenia 700–1500 meters. In Europe it occurs between 0 and 2200 meters and rises in the Himalayas to 3640 meters above sea level.

Plant sociology

The lady's slipper grows in Central Europe in the Association sedge-beech forest ( Carici-Fagetum ) in the sub-association of the Orchid beech forests ( Cephalanthero-Fagenion ). The association characterizes a submontane, species-rich deciduous forest in which the common beech is the dominant species of sessile oak , whitebeam and Scots pine . Characteristic species are the white and red forest bird orchids and the small-leaved stendellum . But it also comes in companies of the associations Pine Steppe Forests ( Cytiso Ruthenian nico-Pinion ), dry warm blood cranesbill -Saumgesellschaften ( Geranion sanguinei ), the order of Heat-loving mixed oak forests ( Quercetalia pubescentis ) or the sub-association fir mixed forests, white fir forests ( Galio Abietenion before).

Hazard and protection

The lady's slipper is considered endangered according to the Red List and is strictly protected according to the Federal Species Protection Ordinance. It falls under the Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive Annex II and is therefore under special protection by the European Union . This results in a special responsibility for Germany for the preservation of the species and a reporting obligation to the EU. The protection of the deposits also becomes an official obligation. The main reason for the threat is seen to be the extensive forestry that hardly allows natural forest development and dynamics. Photo tourism also contributes to a decline in the species, as the soil thickens through frequent walking, making it difficult for new specimens to settle. Plant lovers who dig up the lady's slipper in order to plant it in their own garden also contribute significantly to the decline in the remaining occurrences. Not even botanists know exactly which location factors belong to a suitable lady's slipper biotope. The plants usually cannot cope with the change to the microclimate of a garden and die prematurely. In places that are too shady, the lady's slipper usually only forms leaves and disappears completely after a while.

Endangered plant species on Latvian postage stamp

Maintenance measures to protect the stands can include interventions in the shrub layer or the removal of any branch material. To prevent picking or excavation, some areas were surrounded with a protective grille. Keeping the exact locations of smaller and exposed populations secret is considered essential for the continued existence of the species by the Rhineland-Palatinate nature conservation administration.

The only remaining occurrence in Great Britain near the city of York is guarded day and night by conservationists during the heyday.

The lady's slipper is also listed as endangered on the Red List for Germany, and in some federal states it is even considered threatened with extinction. Many local stocks have died out in Germany in the last few decades, for example in the Bavarian Lake Constance area or in western Lower Saxony.

The protection of existing occurrences is an absolute priority, since reintroduction or the reactivation of generative reproduction are difficult.


The genus name Cypripedium of the scientific name is of Greek origin and refers to the word Kypris . Kypris is the nickname of Aphrodite , goddess of beauty and love. The Latin epithet calceolus means small shoe and, like the common German name, refers to the shoe-shaped form of the labellum. The striking flowering plant is reflected in numerous popular names. On the one hand, the names are linked to the flowering time in May, such as cuckoo flower, pasque flower or pentecostal flower, on the other hand they refer to the shape of the flower. Examples of this are the terms ox bag, slipper flower or maiden beautiful.

Subspecies, varieties, hybrids

Cypripedium × ventricosum

The North American species of small-flowered lady's slipper ( Cypripedium parviflorum ) and hairy lady's slipper ( Cypripedium pubescens ) were often viewed in the past as subspecies or varieties of the yellow lady's slipper ( Cypripedium calceolus ). Charles Sheviak revised this in 1994. Since then, these taxa have been referred to as Cypripedium parviflorum var. Parviflorum and Cypripedium parviflorum var. Pubescens .

The variability is usually limited to the color of the flowers.

  • Cypripedium calceolus var. Calceolus
  • Cypripedium calceolus var. Citrinum as Hergt with lemon yellow flowers.
  • Cypripedium calceolus var. Fulvum with yellowish rust-red flowers.
  • Cypripedium calceolus var. Flavum with completely bright yellow flowers.
  • Cypripedium calceolus var. Viridiflorum M. Schulze with green flowers.

In addition to several artificially created hybrids, there are the following natural hybrids:


The yellow lady's slipper has been used as an ornamental plant since the 16th century . Because of its nature conservation status, only horticultural plants can be sold.

Common names

The other German-language trivial names exist or existed for the yellow lady's shoe: Ankenbälli (in the sense of Butterklümpchen, Bernese Oberland ), Ankenballe (Berner Oberland), Badholsche ( St. Gallen near Sargans ), Butterballen ( Silesia ), Frauaschüeli ( Appenzell , Lucerne , Bern ), Frauenschoiken ( Negenborn ), Frauenschüchlein ( Alsace , Mark Brandenburg ), Frauenschuh (Bern, Graubünden ), Frauenschuckelblume ( Spessart ), Gäl Schöke ( Altmark ), Guggerschuh (Gugger in the sense of Kuckuk, Vorarlberg ), Herrgottaschüali (St. Gallen, Bern), Herrgottschäeltchen ( Transylvania ), Herrgottsschühli (Henneberg), Herrgotsschuh (Henneberg), Holzschüali (St. Gallen near Werdenberg ), Holzschuh (Lucerne), Hosenlatz ( Aargau ), Jungfernschön (Aargau), Jungfernschu (Aargau), Kukuksschuh ( Russia ), Maienschellen (Alsace), Marienschoiken (Negenborn), Marienschühlein (Alsace, East Prussia ), Marienschoiken (Negenborn), Marienschuh ( Harz , Pomerania , Prussia , Thuringia , Ulm ), Pantof feln (Aargau), Papenschoen ( Low German ), Pfaffaschüali (St. Gallen near Sargans), Pfaffenschuch (Ulm), Schafsäcka ( Freyburg (Unstrut) ), Schlotterhosa (St. Gallen am Unterrheintal ), Schuchblume ( Hesse ), Unser Frauen Schüle, Unser liebe Frauen Schuchlein (Mark Brandenburg) and Unzer Vrouwen Schoen (Low German ).



Individual evidence

  1. a b c Erich Oberdorfer : Plant-sociological excursion flora for Germany and neighboring areas . 8th edition. Verlag Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-8001-3131-5 . Page 270.
  2. a b c d e f g h Adolf Riechelmann: The orchids of Franconian Switzerland. Palm & Enke, Erlangen 2011, ISBN 978-3-7896-1701-0 , p. 50 ff.
  3. On the pollination ecology of the lady's slipper (Cypripedium calceolus) in the Weserbergland by Mathias Lohr
  4. a b c Armin Jagel, Bernd Margenburg: Frauenschuh - Cypripedium calceolus (Orchidaceae), Orchid of the year 2010. Yearbook of the Bochum Botanical Association. Vol. 2, 2011, pp. 187–191 ( PDF 3.4 MB)
  5. Federal Agency for Nature Conservation: ( Memento of December 18, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Biolflor database of biological-ecological characteristics of the flora of Germany
  6. a b Zehm, A., Wagner, C .: Frauenschuh - Cypripedium calceolus L. (PDF; 1 MB) In: Information sheet on species protection 43.Bavarian State Office for the Environment, 2018, accessed on July 17, 2019 .
  7. Erhard Dörr, Wolfgang Lippert : Flora of the Allgäu and its surroundings. Volume 1, IHW, Eching 2001, ISBN 3-930167-50-6 , p. 359.
  8. ^ A b Helmut Baumann , Siegfried Künkele : "Orchidaceae". In Oskar Sebald u. a .: The fern and flowering plants of Baden-Württemberg. 1st edition, Volume 8, pages 291-292. Verlag Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart 1998. ISBN 3-8001-3359-8
  9. ^ M. Moor: Attempt at a sociological-systematic structure of the Carici-Fagetum in Plant Ecology, Volume 24, February 1972, Springer Netherlands. Pages 31-69 doi : 10.1007 / BF02387391 .
  10. Landscape information system of the Rhineland-Palatinate Nature Conservation Administration: Profile on Art 1902 of the Habitats Directive
  11. Johann Kachler: Encyclopedic Plant Dictionary of all native and foreign vegetables […] volume 1 . JP Sollinger, Vienna 1829, p. 136 ( Google Books ).
  12. ^ Georg August Pritzel , Carl Jessen : The German folk names of plants. New contribution to the German linguistic treasure. Philipp Cohen, Hannover 1882, p. 125 f. ( Online ).

Web links

Commons : Yellow Lady's Slipper ( Cypripedium calceolus )  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files