Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Lady Slipper

All my life I have always understood the "Lady Slipper" is a protected flower...I always knew the slipper is hard to grow and only bloomed for a short while, I did not know other facts that make this wildflower fascinating.

Imagine entering a church to attend a wedding and finding every windowsill, ends of the pews, and the alter lined with vases of pink lady slippers! I would certainly be aghast with a level of disbelief! Well, in Manitoba it seems to be a common thing to pick and display this slow growing orchid. In Manitoba, the lady slipper grows in great numbers much like, the dandelion. It fills every mountainside, and every field. Even in its native home of Manitoba though, the yellow lady slipper is protected as it's the rarest of the species.

Although abundant in the Northern States, the lady slipper is endangered in Illinois and Tennessee! It is the state flower of New Hampshire and grows in several shades of pink and white. I've discovered a couple reasons this precious plant needs to be left alone in it's wooded setting:
1. It is a member of the orchid family; which makes it slow growing, and sensitive to light, water, and growing conditions.

2. It has an average life span of twenty years.

3. It exists in woodland forests where the soil has a high acid content AND a close association with fungus for much needed growth.

4. Poor pollination and long germination.

No wonder!

Pollination for this flower is one of deception. Because of its bright colors, it attracts many insects to the lip like opening of its balloon shaped flower. Once the insect crawls inside it finds little to no nectar! Here is where the shape plays a important part.....when the insect exits, it collects pollen on its antlers. The pollen is located on the inside of the lip opening and the bug has no choice but to collect it. The bee is then free to find another same species to enter and spread to pollen to. Whew, all that work and no food! Once the seeds are started inside the slipper and mature enough, a gentle wind carries them to their new home. It can take over a year for a new seedling to sprout as the seeds can lay dormant in the ground for quite some time. This process also puts a drain on the seed producing plant that could come close to causing its demise.

I have many slippers (cypripedium acaule) on a small secluded hill on the north side of our property. Most every year I find between 30 to 40 flowers, they range in white, light pink and dark pink, but no yellow. I would like to relocate them to a visible spot but then....I know better. For me, the blooming of these "Moccasin" plant (AKA), signifies the start of the summer. I especially like the double growers that look so much like a petite point ballet slipper that you could almost imagine them tied together and hung on a hook somewhere.

In the garden....dancing....


  1. They are so pretty! I remember finding them as a kid in the woods. I loved them so much I wanted to try to transplant them to better places to save them. Never did though. Even then I knew they were special.

  2. I have never seen these...or heard of them. Very neat.

  3. I know, I moved about 40 of them and they took. I would like to move them again to the flat, elevated spot behind the corner perennial bed. They would be under a few short shaped trees, but I'm afraid it is to dry. The slipper would pop to the drivers driving by and I would see them always.

  4. Timing sooooo close Jillybean, These are such pretty flowers, once you do see them you never forget.

  5. They are so pretty and Maine is lucky to have a lot. Dawn if you moved them once and got away with it, you were very, very lucky so I woyld not try again.

  6. Lady Slippers are also endangered and protected in British Columbia. I've only seen them a few times here when I've been out in the woods.

  7. I have heard of them but never seen any! I see why they are called Lady Slippers! I will keep my eye out for them in our woods as their habitat sounds perfect for them here!

    We spotted a Pileated Woodpecker in our birdbath a few minutes ago. Then spotted his mate on a tree nearby! That is a rare sight and a first for the Saint. They had no sooner flown off then a Doe went under the tree-house and laid down to rest. She was panting really hard with her mouth open and I know she was hot and tired. 98-degrees and really hot for this time of year here and so so so dry for the poor animals.

    Saint spotted three of my newly planted Queen Victoria Lobelia lying on their sides! He gave them a drink to perk them back up...This is twice now so we need to move them to a shadier spot... argggg...

    We are headed to Bruster’s for Ice Cream now!

  8. Hi Guys,
    Mom, I'm not going to move these and only if I become bored will I might try one in that spot but I doubt it, don't see bordom for awhile
    Amy, I did not know that about BC, you would think being so close there would be more. Pretty flower and like my sister said, special flower.
    Skeeter! Lucky you! Ice cream sounds good right about now.

  9. Pink lady slippers are also Minnesota's state flower. They are lovely, aren't they? I'd love it if some would alight here in my woods! Alas, I don't think I have enough fungus here. Plenty acidic though!

    I never even knew there was a yellow variety.

  10. Oh! what pretty flowers. I'd take them over dandelions any day! I'd love to attend a wedding in Manitoba... :-D

  11. Hi guys,
    Cinj, wish this was our state flower, we have the pinecone.
    dp, I might not mind a wedding with these now that I think about it!

  12. These are indeed a beautiful flower. I saw them in the woods in N.C. I know you can't disturb them. Dawn, you were very lucky that yours survived. I wouldn't push my luck a second time. They really like the coolness of the woods not to mention the fungus & such. I've never seen a yellow one.

    Hi all, hope all had a lovely day & will have a restful night.

  13. Hot today, high 80's. Nite Lola

  14. Wish we had some 80's here... Been in the upper 90's with heat index over 100 the past 8 days and a few more days to go before any relief! I am up at 6:30 to do yard work before the heat sets in for the day... I need a pool to jump in...

  15. Tina, I am so glad you are knowledgeable & sensible about moving those treasures. If they are happy where they are, I wouldn't touch them. They are endangered here in Kentucky, too. It is so sad that some people still go into the woods and dig them up to sell them.