Lady Slippers

Pink Ladyslipper (Cypripedium acaule) & Yellow Ladyslipper  (Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens) & Showy Lady Slipper (Cypripedium reginae)



Our three native lady’s slippers are part of the large family of orchids that can be found on Prince Edward Island. The pink lady’s slipper has officially been our provincial flower since 1965, though from 1947 on it was simply a generic lady’s slipper (represented by what looked suspiciously like a showy lady’s slipper). In the past, the showy lady’s slipper was used as a cut flower to decorate the Provincial Legislature. The showy, along with the yellow lady’s slipper, are both uncommon in the province.



The name “lady’s slipper” comes from the distinctive flower shape, which is reminiscent of a slipper or moccasin. Pink lady’s slippers are unique in that they have only two leaves at the base of the upright stem and a single flower. One source of confusion for beginning botanists is the fact that pink lady’s slippers are not always pink – there is a less common white form. Yellow lady’s slippers, like the showy, have leaves along the stem. The multiple yellow flowers are unforgettable, a brilliant yellow with maroon spots. Showy lady’s slippers are truly a regal flower. The sepals and petals are pure white, over-topping the pink and white “slipper”.


While their ranges can overlap, all three lady’s slippers have preferred habitats. Of the three, pink lady’s slippers seem to tolerate the broadest range of habitats. They can be found in the moss carpet under stands of old field white spruce, as well as in rich upland hardwoods. Yellow lady’s slippers can be found in a few open, almost boggy areas, as well as along stream banks that never get flooded. Showy lady’s slippers prefer open, wet areas. One excellent site in eastern Prince Edward Island is in a ditch along an old railway line.


Lady’s slippers grow from seed, though it appears to be an arduous process. They can take from ten to fifteen years to flower after seeds germinate and the rate of germination is never very high. The seeds don’t contain cotyledons (a built-in source of food) that all other seeds contain. The seed needs to come in contact with a beneficial fungus that will provide it with necessary nutrients. A laboratory in Charlottetown is presently attempting to grow some small plants from seed in sterile conditions and hopefully we will have some success transplanting these out.


These are flowers that should be seen in woodland habitats, not picked for cut flowers. They do not last long once cut and the potential for that year’s seed crop is lost. There have also been reports that all species can cause skin irritation, rashes and photo-sensitivity – other good reasons to look but don’t touch. Forest practices should be planned to reduce impact on pink lady’s slipper, and to eliminate impacts on the less common showy and yellow lady’s slippers. Transplanting any of these species from the wild should never be done, except where there is no option (such as when habitat is being destroyed). The plants have few fine roots to conduct water and nutrients – this role is played by the fungus that covers the roots – and so transplanting success is very poor. Given their rarity and beauty, it would be hard to justify killing any of these plants.

Upcoming Events

7:30 pm Owl Prowl
Owl Prowl
Apr 27 @ 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Come join the Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project in celebrating the wonderful world of owls at one of this year’s Owl Prowls. To meet the growing interest in these fascinating birds, there will be Owl
2:00 pm Landscaping with Native Plants
Landscaping with Native Plants
May 4 @ 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Want to spend less time cutting grass and more time enjoying the beautiful plants around your home? This workshop introduces a variety of hardy native plants to attract wildlife and beautify your yard.
8:00 am Birds and Breakfast
Birds and Breakfast
May 11 @ 8:00 am – 10:00 am
The Macphail Homestead will be open at 7am to serve a free “early bird” breakfast. Join other birders beside the fireplace in the Great Room for at hot beverage and breakfast treats to start your
10:00 am Pruning Trees and Shrubs
Pruning Trees and Shrubs
May 18 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Participants will practice pruning on a variety of plants in the nursery, arboretum and woodlands. Please bring along any of your favourite pruning tools. Workshop will include a slide show and demonstration of proper pruning
10:00 am Creating and Maintaining Hedgero...
Creating and Maintaining Hedgero...
May 25 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am
This workshop will look at on creating diverse, beautiful and functional hedgerows and windbreaks using a variety of native plants. Participants will learn about which plants are best, spacing, planting and maintenance.

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