Britain's rarest orchid stolen from golf course

A rare orchid, one of only two growing wild in Britain, has been stolen from the grounds of a Lancashire golf club, English Nature said yesterday.

The 80-year-old, purple and yellow, lady's slipper orchid, estimated to be worth £2,000 on the black market, was dug up from a flowerbed at the Silverdale golf club, near Lancaster.

Police are now searching the county for the missing flower, which has been visited by more than 900 people this year.

Rob Petley-Jones, the English Nature site manager who has looked after the orchid for the past 12 years, said there was only one other orchid of its kind in Yorkshire.

Mr Petley-Jones said: "It's beyond price. People have known about it for generations. A thoughtless act of greed or selfishness has taken it away."

The orchid was growing in an area classified as an official Site of Special Scientific Interest. Keith Smith, the secretary of the golf club, said: "It was in a quarry area and it is not easy to see or find at all. We have no idea whether someone has done it deliberately or accidentally."