With beautiful red and yellow slipper-shaped flowers, the lady’s slipper (Calceolaria fothergillii) is one of the more colourful and distinctive members of the Falklands Islands’ flora (2)(3). The upper, narrow end of the ‘slipper’ (the large lower petal of the flower) is surrounded by grey-green sepals, which appear to hold the flower vertically. There is a broad red stripe on the outer lip of the slipper, and it is usually streaked with red, although it may be entirely red, or yellow with small red spots. A white bar is visible on the inside. Each individual flower is borne on a short, reddish, hairy stalk that rises from the centre of a rosette of hairy, spoon-shaped leaves (2).
The perennial lady’s slipper flowers between November and February (2)(4). Most species in the genusCalceolaria have a specialised plant-pollinator relationship, as the flowers of Calceolaria species produce a type of oil, a ‘floral reward’, which attracts particular solitary oil-collecting bees. However, the lady’s slipper has evolved to lose the oil-producing glands, and instead has a juicy food body associated with bird pollination. It has been suggested that this may have arisen because the lady’s slipper is found in an area where the specialised oil-collecting bees are scarce (5).
Commonly found in association with coastal diddle-dee (Empetrum rubrum), the lady’s slipper forms small colonies on open, well-drained, sandy soils and heathland habitat (2)(3)(4). It is most often found on coastal slopes and sheltered cliffs, and has been recorded up to elevations of 150 metres (3).
Although the lady’s slipper is still widespread across the Falkland Islands, it is fairly scarce where there is substantial grazing pressure from livestock. Its primary habitat among coastal diddle-dee is threatened by over-grazing, as well as burning and ploughing to improve the land for agriculture. In addition, introduced and invasive species, together with increasing levels of tourism, are placing further pressure on the Falkland Islands’ endemic floral species (6)(7).
Despite having relatively low diversity, the plant communities on the Falkland Islands include a high proportion of threatened species and a number of endemic species. Of the islands’ 172 native plant species, some 13 species, including the lady’s slipper, are found no where else in the world and 5 are threatened with extinction (4)(8).
The lady’s slipper will no doubt benefit from conservation programmes which are currently focusing on protecting plant species on the Falkland Islands and mitigating the threats to their survival (8). The Falklands Islands Plant Conservation Project, with assistance from Falklands Conservation, is developing a strategy for the long-term conservation of the islands’ threatened flora, with plans for sustainable land management and protection. Public education projects are also aiming to tackle human disturbances to natural environments (9).
ARKive is supported by OTEP, a joint programme of funding from the UK FCO and DFID which provides support to address priority environmental issues in the Overseas Territories, and Defra
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
An organ that makes and secretes substances used by the body.
A plant that normally lives for more than two seasons. After an initial period, the plant produces flowers once a year.
The transfer of pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
An animal that in the act of visiting a plant’s flowers transfers pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
A floral leaf (collectively comprising the calyx of the flower) that forms the protective outer layer of a flower bud.
Cosacov, A., Sérsic, A.N., Sosa, V., Arturo De-Nova, J., Nylinder, S. and Cocucci, A.A. (2009) New insights into the phylogenetic relationships, character evolution, and phytogeographic patterns of Calceolaria (Calceolariaceae). American Journal of Botany, 96(12): 2240-2255.
Broughton, D.A. and McAdam, J.H. (2005) A checklist of the native vascular flora of the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas): new information on the species present, their ecology, status and distribution. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society, 132: 115-148.
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