Rare Duke of Ellington Butterfly Spotted

Lady's-slipper orchid

Every year I post photos of one of our local rarities – the lady’s-slipper orchids. Usually with an admonition to get out and see them whilst you can. This year, I’ve been a bit tardy and I’m afraid to say that you’d be a bit late by now. These flowers, Cypripedium calceolus – the little shoe of Venus, were once common in the North of England, but, having been on the brink of extinction here, are now making a comeback thanks to reintroduced specimens grown at Kew gardens. The project began in 1983, but it was only as recently as 2009 that reintroduced plants produced seed-pods. The orchids have been planted at numerous, generally secret locations, with Gait Barrows being the well-publicised exception. The large yellow lip is designed to temporarily trap flies which are then well covered in pollen as they escape.


In all honesty, this evening walk wasn’t principally about seeing the orchids. The day before, whilst the boys and I were exploring the environs of Rydal Beck and spotting redstarts amongst the trees, TBH and A cycled to Gait Barrows and found there crowds of excited naturalists viewing the lady’s-slippers, but also pointing out to A and TBH a ‘Duke-of-Ellington’ butterfly. Otherwise known as a Duke of Burgundy. The Duke of Burgundy is in need of the same sort of helping hand as the Lady’s Slipper. Once associated with primroses growing in coppiced woodland, the decline in coppicing has seen the butterfly become reliant on cowslips growing in limestone or chalk grassland. Too much grazing, or shade of their food-plants, and the delicate balance is disturbed. I’ve never seen them in all my many visits to Gait Barrows and this evening was to be no exception.

I did find a brown silver-line moth:

Brown silver-line moth 

Since mine was an evening – rather than a weekend – visit, I didn’t meet crowds of orchid or butterfly enthusiasts. Just one other chap who, like me, was grovelling around on the floor taking photos of the flowers. He’d caught the train up from London that day and would head home again the next day. Just to see the lady’s-slippers. Maybe I don’t feel quite so bad about missing the Duke of Burgundies again.

Somehow, a month has slipped by since then. A busy month admittedly: Silverdale has two big weekend’s in June, first our Field Day which I was up-to-my-elbows in organising and then the Art Trail which, it seemed to me, was bigger and better than ever in it’s ninth year.

Meanwhile, in the fields roundabout, the tractors have been out night and day, harvesting the grass for silage. This one…


…belongs to the National Trust and has had a stay of execution.

Rare Duke of Ellington Butterfly Spotted

5 thoughts on “Rare Duke of Ellington Butterfly Spotted

  1. I have threatened to head over your way and visit Gait Barrows for years. The LS orchids look wonderful and I really must make more of an effort to see them. The DOB butterfly is one I have not seen either. Some of these rarities seem to have such a small area of habitat you do wonder how they hang on at all.

  2. Been wondering where you’d gone. Nice photos. Having to post using my Facebook account as WordPress thinks I’m a spammer which is bloody annoying. I’ll drop a copy of this post with my WordPress account so if it does get through just delete one. If it doesn’t can you let me know

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      There was a comment in the spam queue, but when I marked it as not spam, it seemed to disappear!? Good luck with sorting that out, it must be incredibly frustrating.

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