I Love Cypripedium acaule aka Lady Slipper Orchid

Feb 23, 2024 | Love This!

Name:  Cypripedium acaule aka Lady Slipper Orchid

Type of Plant: Native ground orchid that thrives in damp woodland and acidic soils

Why I Love This Plant:     The more you know about the lady slipper orchid, the more there is to wonder about and admire. First of all, in order to reproduce the lady slipper seeds need to interact with a soil fungus from the genus Rizoctonia. It seems that these orchid seeds don’t have the food supply in them as most seeds do, so they require the Rizoctonia threads to break open the seed and attach in order to germinate.

Secondly, these flowers trick bees into fertilizing them so that they can produce seeds. The flowers have a scent and markings that attract several species of bumble bees, but once inside those bees can’t get out the way that they came in.

Bees have to find another way out, which (what a surprise!) takes the bee on a passage past the flower’s reproductive parts. Although the bee is allowed to escape after assisting the orchid with cross-pollination, they haven’t gotten any nectar or accessible pollen as a reward.  

A Word to the Wise: These plants are endangered in Massachusetts, so value them, take photos, but do not pick them, harvest seeds, or try and transplant them into your garden. In fact, if you look for plants you can buy, be sure that they are not harvested from the wild. (Hint: I suspect that the less expensive ones found online are taken illegally from wild places.) 

In Massachusetts this lovely orchid can be seen flowering in damp woodland in late May.

Look for lady slippers and take photos, but never pick the flowers, seed pods, or try and transplant.


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