Lady Slippers


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

 

Background:

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.

 

Identification:

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”.

Habitat:

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.

Propagation:

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.

Conservation:

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

Jul
6
Mon
9:00 pm Summer Camp: Young Ecologists Se...
Summer Camp: Young Ecologists Se...
Jul 6 @ 9:00 pm – Jul 10 @ 3:00 pm
Young Ecologists: Session One This camp will begin to introduce the campers to the amazing complexity of our native Acadian forests. They will dissect owl pellets, take part in forest restoration planning and plantings and
Jul
13
Mon
9:00 pm Summer Camp: Nature Discovery Se...
Summer Camp: Nature Discovery Se...
Jul 13 @ 9:00 pm – Jul 17 @ 3:00 pm
Nature Discovery: Session One This camp will introduce the children to the woods, stream and native tree nursery that surround our Nature Center. The campers will delight in learning to use all their senses to
Jul
20
Mon
9:00 pm Summer Camp: Becoming a Naturali...
Summer Camp: Becoming a Naturali...
Jul 20 @ 9:00 pm – Jul 24 @ 3:00 pm
Becoming a Naturalist Session One This camp focuses on encountering and describing the natural world. Through the use of art and other hands-on outdoor activities, they’ll expand their understanding of life in the woodlands, waterways,
Jul
25
Sat
10:00 am Tracking the Mammals of PEI
Tracking the Mammals of PEI
Jul 25 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Come on out and learn about the native and introduced mammals found on PEI, as well as a brief look at some of the mammals we’ve lost. After a brief slideshow, we’ll head off to
Jul
27
Mon
9:00 pm Summer Camp: Bushcraft Ecology A...
Summer Camp: Bushcraft Ecology A...
Jul 27 @ 9:00 pm – Jul 31 @ 3:00 pm
Bushcraft Ecology Ages 12-14 These campers will delight in learning survival skills such as one-match fire making, shelter building, rope making with natural fibres, and tracking animals. Touching on plant and tree identification, campers will

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