Jeff Green | Jul 03, 2008
Outdoors - July 3, 2008
Back toHomeOutdoors in the LandO'Lakes - July 3, 2008 Lady’s Slippers of theLand o’ Lakes Outdoors in the Land O'Lakes by Steve Blight
Some of the most interesting and attractive wildflowers found in our area are the lady’s slippers. These members of the Orchid family of plants are distinguished by their large slipper-shaped pouches, which trap and direct insect pollinators in a certain direction so that they collect or deposit small packets of pollen on their way by. Another interesting feature of lady’s slippers is that some people experience a kind of rash similar to poison ivy after they handle them. All the more reason to follow the old adage “look, but don’t touch”.
There are three species of lady’s slippers that we have a good chance of seeing in this area, and all are gorgeous – Yellow Lady’s Slipper, Pink Lady’s Slipper or Moccasin Flower, and Showy Lady’s Slipper. All three have flowers that are 1-2 inches in length and flower in late spring or early summer. Let’s take a closer look at each of the three plants.
Yellow Lady’s Slippers are probably the most common of the three. Botanists are still trying to figure out if there is more than one species of Yellow Lady’s Slipper in this area, or if they are just different varieties of the same species. PhDs are routinely earned by botanists who argue that single species should be split into two or more species (these scientists can collectively be referred to as “splitters”). Others argue that some groups of similar species should be put back together under one species, and they are known as “lumpers”. So far, it seems to me that the splitters are winning the day, with more and more species showing up in many plant books.
Yellow Lady’s Slippers grow in a variety of soil, sunlight and moisture regimes. Some grow in dry acidic soils, while others prefer the wet soils of bogs or the more basic soils found in areas of limestone or marble bedrock. In some places, this plant can be found growing quite happily in the open at the edge of gravel roads. In our area, it generally begins flowering at the end of May, and will flower for about a week to ten days if the weather does not get too hot.
Pink Lady’s Slippers are fussier about their growing conditions, and are only found in areas with very acidic soils. This generally limits them to two types of conditions – in sphagnum bogs, and in thin soils under pines and oaks. These flowers bloom in early June, although they flower well into July in areas to the north of our region.