Lady’s slipper orchids

This is the blooming season for the two species of lady’s slipper orchids that are native to the North Carolina piedmont.  Unfortunately, I don’t have time to go out searching for them this year, but I have been lucky enough to see and photograph both species in past years.

Cypripedium acuale (pink lady’s slipper, moccasin flower)

Cypripedium acaule blooming in late April

C. acaule is definitely the most common of the two species in the piedmont.  The plants are tolerant of varied moisture levels, and their main requirement is for very acidic soil.  They often grow in fairly dry pine woods, but I have also seen plants in mixed deciduous forest.

Blooming-size plants usually produce a pair of pleated leaves that sit flat on the ground and are easy to recognize even when the plant isn’t flowering:

C_acaule leaves
Having said that C. acaule leaves are easy to identify, I sure hope I haven’t misidentified this plant that I photographed in late summer in eastern Maine.

A good place to see C. acaule in the Triangle area is William B. Umstead State Park.  I’ve seen plants blooming along the trail near the Reedy Creek Entrance.

Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens (greater yellow lady’s slipper)

Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens blooming at an undisclosed location in Durham County, late April, 2016

C. parviflorum var. pubescens is quite rare in the piedmont, and I have only seen plants at one location.  They were growing among Christmas ferns (Polystichum acrostichoides) on a fairly steep hillside in deciduous forest dominated by beeches, oaks, and tulip poplars.

Habitat of C. parviflorum var. pubescens.  The plants were growing near the top of the slope.
Another flower


Because C. parviflorum var. pubescens is rare and is one of the native plants most likely to be poached by unscrupulous plant collectors, I don’t feel comfortable publishing the location of this population on the internet.  Thanks for understanding.  If I know you in real life, you can ask me in person.

8 thoughts on “Lady’s slipper orchids

  1. They are such unusual flowers, the proportions seem exaggerated, almost grotesque. I guess I am used to the daintier orchids widely available at garden centres. If I saw one of “your” orchids out in the woods I wouldn’t believe my eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We have these amazing plants in the Upstate too and it is always a thrill to come across one of them on a trail. Like you, I’m haven’t had time to hike this spring, and I hate to think of all I am missing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have heard of these from people from Pennsylvania. They likely have a different species or specie there, but it is amusing to think of an orchid that looks like it would be at home here surviving the winters there.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That is exactly what I was told about them, that they are not common, but seem to grow all over the place. Those that were in Central Pennsylvania were puny and unimpressive until one got close enough to see what they were, but that they were the same ones that lived in New Hampshire and Virginia. We have a funny trout lily here that looks rather puny, as if we would be right on the edge of the natural range; but it actually gets around both to the north and the south, it is uncommon, and always looks puny. (That is the one that you told me was likely very dependent on the microbial biome where it was established.)

        Liked by 1 person

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