The Showy Lady’s slipper is sometimes known as the Queen’s Lady’s slipper or the Pink and White Lady’s slipper. The scientific classification is Cypripedium reginae. The Lady’s slipper orchid is native to northern North America. This orchid is very rare and probably always has been.
The Showy Lady’s slipper produces a large number of seeds in each seed pod but it can only reproduce by vegetative reproduction. Even though this orchid has never been plentiful it has disappeared from much of its native range because of habitat loss. The orchid has one or two blooms in most cases but there can be three or four in a few rare circumstance on a single stem. White petals sit on top of a white pouch which looks like a slipper. This pouch is streaked with pink. Oval leaves that are quite hairy grip the stems. These “hairs” can cause some people to have an itchy and irritating rash. The orchid comes in red, pink, green or white. The plant is from one to two feet tall. The blooms themselves are from one to three inches in length.
Charles Darwin was one of the people who tried to cultivate the plant but he was unsuccessful, like many others. The Showy Lady’s slipper became the Minnesota state flower in 1902 and it has been protected by state law since 1925, making it illegal to uproot or pick a Showy Lady’s slipper in the state. The state of New Hampshire also claims the Showy Lady’s slipper as its state wildflower.
The Showy Lady’s slipper blooms from early June to around the middle of July. It thrives on bright sunlight but will grow in areas that are semi shaded. In one single year the lady’s slipper can produce up to half a million seeds and they are as fine as dust. It only grows a tiny bit each year. The lady’s slipper can live up to an amazing one hundred years.
Swamps, bogs, wet meadows and prairies, and damp woods are all natural habitats for the Showy Lady’s slipper. In Minnesota they can be found anywhere these conditions exist.
Wetland drainage, tree cuttings, road construction and illegal picking and uprooting has dangerously depleted the Showy Lady’s slipper. Herbicides that are used to kill weeds on the sides of roads also kill the orchid. The best option for protecting this beautiful flower is protection of its natural habitat.