Lady's Slipper

One of the most popular and attractive of all orchids

What
Lady's Slipper is a term used to describe orchids in the subfamily Cypripedioidea, which includes the genera Cypripedium, Mexipedium, Paphiopedilum, Phragmipedium and Selenipedium, distinguished by their slipper-shaped pouches. These pouches trap insects so that they are forced to climb up past the staminode, behind which they collect or deposit pollinia.

The genus Cypripedium has about 50 temperate and subtropical species. Two well-known species, the yellow lady's slipper (C. calceolus) and the pink lady's slipper, or moccasin flower (C. acaule), are found in temperate coniferous woods in early spring. Other genera include Phragmipedium and Selenipedium of the New World tropics, and the tropical Asian Paphiopedilum. Many hybrids have been developed.

Cypripedium are found across much of North America, as well as in parts of Europe.

About
This plant has only 2 leaves. They are green and branch out from the centre of the plant. A single flower stalk also grows from the centre. White petals sit on top of a white pouch (slipper) streaked with pink. Hairy oval leaves clasp the stem.

The deep pink flower, which many people say resembles a slipper, grows about 7.6 cm long. Unlike most flowers, this is closed tightly except for a small opening in the front.

Pink Lady's Slippers grow in shady forests under pine trees, oaks, Red Maple, and Sweetgum. Some other plants that grow alongside them include Greenbrier and Sassafras. Pink Lady's Slipper is a food source for several insects and white-tailed Deer.

Why
The Showy Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium reginae) is the state flower of Minnesota. The Pink Lady's Slipper, (Cypripedium acaule), is the official state wildflower of New Hampshire. The Lady's Slipper is also the official provincial flower of Prince Edward Island, a small province of Canada.

The lady's slipper is known in the United States as the moccasin flower, from its similarity to a shoe or moccasin.

Your chances of seeing one in the wild
Pink Lady's Slipper is endangered in some areas because they take a long time to grow, and because people collect them. Also, since Pink Lady's Slippers cannot grow without the Rhizoctonia fungus, the plants people collect usually die anyway. There are significant efforts to protect Pink Lady’s Slippers, and in most places it is now illegal to remove them from their habitat.
 / ©: WWF / Fritz PÖLKING
Map Butterfly (Araschnia levana) & Lady's Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium calceolus), Germany.
© WWF / Fritz PÖLKING

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Donate to WWF

Your support will help us build a future where humans live in harmony with nature.