Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Double Yellow Lady's Slipper

The Blue Jay Barrens population of Large Yellow Lady’s Slipper, Cypripedium calceolus, has put on a spectacular show this year with three times the blooms that appeared last year. That sounds great, but once again I’m dealing with an extremely small population. In this case it’s just a single plant. None the less, the single stalk with flower that appeared last year has been outdone by the two stalks and three blooms that are currently present. Those adept at math can quickly see that this must mean one of the stalks is carrying two flowers.

I give credit for two flowers on one stalk even though one of the blooms failed to produce a proper pouch. It might be possible that the weather has helped the plant develop this year, but I feel that a more important factor is the fact that the deer have not eaten on the plant for the past three years. It was common for this plant to be chewed to the ground in the spring. A few years ago, a fallen tree formed a partial corral around the plant and that seems to have kept the deer from wandering into this area.

Even though the second flower didn’t fully form, I take it as a sign of increased vigor that the plant even attempted two flowers. I may have only a single plant, but I would like that plant to be as healthy as possible.

The second stalk also had some development problems and failed to produce an upright posture. As I do each time this plant blooms, I’m hoping that seeds somehow develop. I thought that was going to happen last year when the pod remained green and began to expand. Things looked good for a while and then the pod began to yellow and eventually dropped off.

At least the one plant I have is doing well. I keep looking for other Yellow Lady’s Slipper plants. I don’t know if this plant represents the last of a population that was once common here or if it is the first to show up. I believe that I’ll find another of its kind and when I do, I’ll wonder how I ever missed seeing such a distinctive plant.


  1. I haven't seen a yellow lady slipper in years. My fingers are crossed that your 'slipper becomes a multitude. :)

    Thanks for reminding me I need to check out back for the pink ones - last year I had loads!

  2. Gorgeous! I have never seen a lady's slipper and would love to.

  3. Hi Steve...I am so jealous....I had 2 big fat buds ready to burst into the world : { sadly I think the Woodchuck ate them maybe it was the deer,but I saw the woodchuck right near there looking so cute in some flowers that cover a part of back property them I found the plant chomped up....lets just say he is luck he isn't looking down the barrel of a shotgun!!
    It has been forty years ago I moved here and that plant comes up in the same spot 3 stems and have never found another either!!

  4. The struggles some of these guys go thru to even survive let alone propagate makes you appreciate them that much more. Your single flower is exacty one of my passions for botany..might there be another?? out there..somewhere..tucked away. There is something more realistically special about knowing something might be around versus hoping it might be around. :)

  5. ...I hope it's the first to show up and you continue to see more!

  6. Steve,

    If you do get seed (and I hope you do) what would you do with it? Any ideas on seed propagation simpler than PGR's and axenic culture. I'd guess just a simple direct seeding in suitable habitat, as soon as seed ripens. Do think this plant can grow in prairie/grassland habitats?

  7. Well, Renee, I haven’t seen a pink lady’s slipper in years. I hear of pinks showing up in pine plantings, so I check my pine thickets each year to see if any show up. I guess we’ll both just have to enjoy the color we’ve got.

    Hi, Rebecca. Lady’s Slippers are fantastic flowers. I hope you get the opportunity to see a few.

    Hi, grammie g. It’s so disappointing when something chews up your favorite flower. Maybe next year I’ll get my Lady’s Slipper a bus ticket and it can come to Maine to visit your Lady’s Slipper. If things work out, we can split the babies.

    You’re right about the knowing, Michael. It’s that certainty that the next place I look could hold that elusive second plant, which keeps me searching each year. Of course, I always find something, even if it’s not what I was searching for.

    Thanks, Kelly. I share that same hope.

    Hi, David. If seeds do develop, I’ll spread them around the site of the existing plant. Yellow Lady’s Slipper is considered a woodland plant and doesn’t typically grow in full sun situations. My plant is located in the woods, about 100 feet from the edge of a prairie opening. In a savannah type situation, where you have scattered trees mixed in with the prairie grasses, it might be possible for Yellow Lady’s Slippers to grow. It’s also possible that the tall grasses could provide shade and mimic conditions found in the woods. I’ve found several species of woodland ferns that thrive in the shade of thick Indian Grass stands. I’ve seen many species of plants growing in locations that seem contrary to their described habitats. I take this to mean that there are still things that we don’t understand about the environmental needs of those species.