Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Elusive Pink Lady's Slipper Orchid

 Cypripedeum Acaule, or Pink Lady's Slipper

I had been searching the forest grounds for one of the last spring ephemerals, and one of the most stunning, the pink lady's slipper orchid. I finally found one yesterday.

Prior to locating it, I did some research and learned they grown on well drained slopes and along swamp edges (perfect, as I often traverse a nearby swamp looking for my owl friends and other wildlife, including ephemerals, that situate themselves there.) 

Lady's slipper orchids grow primarily in the eastern part of the United States and northern Canada, in the coniferous areas of  forests, which is where I found this one. They need a certain leaf fungus for their seeds to germinate. Bumblebees, smelling their sweet scent go inside for nectar, but find none. However, this helps pollinate the flower anyway, as the bees will be tricked a few times thus spreading pollen from flower to flower unwittingly. The lady's slipper is a protected flower. It takes a long time to grow and is considered endangered in some areas where people have dug them up. They do not do well once removed from their natural habitat, so it is best to enjoy them in nature.

Discovered in the late part of the eighteen century by Scottish botanist, William Aiton, some believed they look like a lady's slipper, hence their popular name. Pink lady's slippers are also called moccasin flowers. They produce hundreds of powdery seeds each year that are broken open only with the help of the leaf fungus they live amongst. It takes several years for a plant to mature, and then it can survive for at least a couple of decades.

I look forward to locating more, and who knows what else, as spring moves into summer.

I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.
{Georgia O'Keeffe}