Home & Garden Gardening

Facts on Lady Slipper Flowers

    Identification

    • There are five species of Lady's Slipper orchids: Cypripedium, Mexipedium, Paphiopedilum, Phragmipedium and Selenipedium. There are only minor differences between species, the main variations being color and leaf shape.

      The Lady's Slipper is a brightly colored orchid that has one to two blossoms on a single stem. It has two leaves that grow horizontally at the base of the stem. The blossom consists of four petals surrounding a 2- to 4-inch oblong pouch, or "slipper." Each stalk grows 6 to 15 inches tall. Colors can include all shades of red, yellow, green, pink and white.

    Growth and Habitat

    • Yellow Lady's SlipperLady's slipper orchid (Cypripedium calceolus) image by Lars Lachmann from Fotolia.com

      The Lady's Slipper flowers from early June to the middle of July. They are extremely slow growing. In its first year, this orchid may only grow to be a few inches tall. It often takes four to 16 years for a plant to produce its first blossom. However, this flower has a long life span -- between 20 and 50 years old.

      Hardy in zones 3 through 8, the Lady's Slipper prefers wet, swampy ground and dense shade. They do well in cool, damp woods, especially in the shadows of pine and hemlock trees.

    Reproduction

    • Lady's Slippers need two things in order to pollinate and survive: bees and fungus. Bees are attracted by the sweet scent and bright colors. They enter the pouch through a small slit on the front. Inside the pouch, there are two pollen masses, or stamen, with exit openings under each. In order to escape, the bees must pass under the stamen. In doing so, they deposit any pollen they were currently carrying and pick up a new batch of pollen on their way out. Without bees, there would be no way for the Lady's Slipper to transfer pollen.

      Fungus plays a role in this orchid's reproduction, as well. Fungus from the Rhizoctonia genus breaks open the orchid's seeds and passes on required nutrients. When the Lady's Slipper has reached maturity, the fungus will withdraw nutrients from the flower's roots. This type of symbiosis, or mutually beneficial relationship, is common among all species of orchids.

      It is extremely difficult to grow Lady's Slipper from a seed, or even to transplant it. It is also illegal to remove them from their natural habitat, as they are a protected species.

    History

    • Magenta Lady's SlipperFlower of Lady's Slipper 27 image by Valeriy Kirsanov from Fotolia.com

      The Lady's Slipper tubular root was used in the early 1800s as a remedy for nervousness, tooth pain and muscle spasms. Many American settlers used it in place of valerian, a sedative found in Europe. At the height of its popularity, American doctors prescribed Lady's Slipper root for a variety of conditions including headache, epilepsy, hysteria, insomnia, delirium and irritability.



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