Police Set Up Patrol for Britain's Rarest Wildflower, a 100-Year-Old Orchid

ladyslipper orchid photo

Lady slipper orchid, similar to the very rare flowers found at Silverdale Golf Course in Carnfoth, Lancashire. Photo via Muffet via Flickr CC

It might look like just another bunch of plants right now, but Britain's rarest wildflower, a yellow and purple Lady's Slipper orchid found at a golf course, is worth a ton. Cuttings can be sold to collectors for as much as £5,000, and in order to protect the flower from thieves, Lancashire Police are setting up patrols for when the flower blooms in late May or June. They may even spend thousands on installing security cameras so the plant can be monitored 24/7. According to the Telegraph, efforts to reintroduce the rare flower elsewhere have failed, so locals are doing what they can to keep it safe when it blooms.

"Officers have been ordered to 'ensure the safety' of the orchid by including it in their routine foot patrols, meaning they will pass it every hour or so. Police will also tag the 100-year-old orchid with a coded security mark so that anyone who tries to sell a cutting to wildflower collectors can be caught. The force is also considering spending thousands of pounds on CCTV cameras to keep a 24-hour watch on the orchid, which is protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981."

They've even added a circle of crime scene tape around the plant. It might seem like overkill, but for conservationists, the measures are much appreciated. In 2004, a collector tried to dig up the entire plant, and last June a thief took a cutting so the orchid has just six flowers left. The plant is described as incredibly important since it is iconic to Britain's wildlife, and is a big tourist pull (at least, tourists with a special interest in flowers) when it blooms.

Rob Petley-Jones, of English Nature, said: "It is completely illegal to even touch this plant, you would need a special licence for it."

Now that is some serious conservation!

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