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.
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....