There’s just something special about wild lady slipper orchids (Cypripedium). Despite many claims to the contrary, these stunning flowers no longer require long hikes through the woods to be enjoyed. Growing a lady slipper wildflower can be accomplished just as easily, with a little effort, in your own garden. In fact, they make interesting specimens in the woodland garden.
Information About Wild Lady Slipper Orchids
Yellow lady slipper – The yellow lady slipper (C. calceolus) blooms in early spring and is found mostly in rich woodlands or along the edges or elevated areas of bogs. Its counterpart, the large or greater yellow lady slipper (C. parviflorum pubescens) can grow up to two feet (0.5 m.) tall, with the flower petals up to 6 inches (15 cm.) across.
How to Grow Lady Slipper Orchids
Pink lady slipper – Pink lady slipper (C.acaule) has deep pink flowers about 3 inches (7.5 cm.) long and exhibits a slightly sweet-smelling aroma. It blooms from late June into July.
Protected under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, Manitoba’s Endangered Species Act and Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. The collection of wild plants and seeds is illegal on public lands.
This perennial grows to 40 cm tall, in clusters of 3-60 stems from an underground rhizome. It has 3-6 alternate, v-shaped leaves. Flowers occur singly, and have three petals: one is white with red flecks forming a pouch (or slipper) and the other two are greenish purple and twisted. There are three yellow-green to brown sepals (two fused at the bottom of the slipper and one at the top) and a conspicuous bract. The fruit is a capsule that splits open to release thousands of small seeds.
The pleasing aroma of this species attracts small solitary bees. The bees enter the pouch of the flower but find no nectar to reward them. Trapped inside the ‘slipper’, the bee can only exit via the back of the orchid. As the bee passes through, pollen is deposited on its’ back where it will rub off onto the next plant it visits. This endangered orchid is found in moist grasslands of southern Manitoba and Ontario, and the northeastern U.S.
Do not purchase wild-collected seeds or plants. Seeds and/or plants from nursery-raised stock may be available.