Posts Tagged ‘Lady’s Slipper orchid’

Orchids are rare and beautiful and it is amazing to find them growing in the wild. Last Thursday I went on a hike in a hilly forested area of Prince William County in Virginia. It was cool and overcast, less than idea circumstances for finding the dragonflies that I was seeking. After coming up empty-handed at my favorite dragonfly spots, I decided to switch to Plan B.

I vaguely remembered where in previous years I had seen some Pink Lady’s Slippers (Cypripedium acaule), a beautiful wild orchid that is native to North America, and decided to go off on a quest to find these treasures. I noticed that a lot of trees had fallen over the past year. Although workers at this national park had cleared the trails themselves, the limbs from the fallen trees obstructed my view in my target areas.

Orchids are pretty fragile and require specific habitats and I was worried that those habitats might have been damaged or destroyed. I walked very slowly, scanning the forest floor for hints of red or pink, wondering if I had come too early or too late. Eventually I found one small patch and then a second one a bit later (as shown in the final photo).

Pink Lady’s Slippers are sometimes called “moccasin flowers.” According to the New England Today website, “Native American folklore tells the story of a young maiden who ran barefoot in the snow in search of medicine to save her tribe, but was found collapsed on the way back from her mission with swollen, frozen feet. As a result, beautiful lady slipper flowers then grew where her feet had been as a reminder of her bravery.”

As I did a bit more research I learned more about this delightful flowers, including the specific requirements for them to grow that include a particular type of fungus. According to the U.S. Forest Service, “In order to survive and reproduce, pink lady’s slipper interacts with a fungus in the soil from the Rhizoctonia genus. Generally, orchid seeds do not have food supplies inside them like most other kinds of seeds. Pink lady’s slipper seeds require threads of the fungus to break open the seed and attach them to it. The fungus will pass on food and nutrients to the pink lady’s slipper seed. When the lady’s slipper plant is older and producing most of its own nutrients, the fungus will extract nutrients from the orchid roots. This mutually beneficial relationship between the orchid and the fungus is known as “symbiosis” and is typical of almost all orchid species.”

In a recent posting about Bleeding Hearts, I commented that I really liked heart-shaped flowers. At that time I was referring to the stylized shape that we associate with love. In the case of these Lady’s Slippers, I have always found that they look like actual human hearts, at least as I have seen them in movies that included open-heart surgery. Wow!

Depending on your angle of view, I also find that Pink Lady’s Slippers look like angels. I have tried to show you what I mean in the second photo, in which I have focused on a single flower. Do you see the hovering angel?

The final photo is one that I snapped with my iPhone. It gives you a sense of the habitat in which I found these beautiful little flowers. I feel blessed to have found them again this year and hope to see them again in future springs. According to the U.S. Forest Service article cited above, Pink’s Lady Slippers can live to be twenty years old or more.

Pink Lady's Slipper

Pink Lady's Slipper

Pink Lady's Slipper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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All orchids are beautiful, but I am particularly fascinated by Lady’s Slipper orchids, which are characterized by a slipper-shaped pouch. The pouch traps insects that help to fertilize the flower as they climb up and out of the pouch. According to Wikipedia, the Lady’s Slipper orchids are in the orchid subfamily Cypripedioideae, though some apparently consider them to be their own family separate from the other orchids.

I took this shot last week in Washington D.C. at the US Botanic Garden. There were several rooms full of orchids of all kinds, including multiple species of Lady’s Slipper orchids—it was almost like being in heaven.

Lady's Slipper orchid

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This past weekend, I was filled with an inexplicable urge to take some flower photos. With the exception of some clumps of snowdrops, nothing was blooming outdoors, so I slipped into the small glass-enclosed greenhouse at my local county-run garden to capture images of some of the tropical flowers there.

I was alone with the plants for an extended period of time and was able to set up my tripod and use my macro lens, which has been gathering dust the last few months. My eyes have grown accustomed to looking for birds in the distance and it was an interesting challenge to get them to focus on the smaller details of stationary objects.

I am not sure of the names of the flowers that I photographed (with the exception of the second one, which is a kind of Lady’s Slipper orchid), but my senses were satisfied temporarily with the sight and smells of these beautiful flowers.

I can’t wait for spring, when I’ll have the chance to to see more flowers (and the accompanying insects) outdoors.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Progress toward spring seems to have slowed down and frost has reappeared in the morning, though we have been spared the heavy snows that have fallen in other parts of the country.

As a reminder of the colorful growth that is to come, I decided to share a few images of one of my favorite orchids—a Lady’s Slipper orchid—from the orchid exhibition that I visited at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, VA earlier this month. I was really intrigued by the “pouch” portion of the flower and tried to highlight it in close-up photos, which I took with my camera on a tripod and settings of ISO 100, f16, and .6 seconds.

As I think about spring, I feel like a little kid on a trip, who keeps asking his parents, “Are we there yet?” Despite what the calendar may indicate, we are not there yet, and the answer to the question “When?” is likely to be the indefinite “Soon” that parents are wont to use in a response to the child.


Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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In an effort to chase away the dullness of another gray winter day, I traveled yesterday with some friends to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, VA to see a spectacular display of orchids.

There was an amazing variety of orchids of all sizes and color, displayed in several areas of a large indoor glass conservatory. I know very little about orchids, but my eyes were especially drawn to a variety called Lady’s Slippers that are in the sub-family Cypripedioideae. According to Wikipedia, orchids of this type are characterized by slipper-shaped pouches that traps insects so they are forced to climb up past the staminode, behind which they collect or deposit pollen, thus fertilizing the flower.

Here is a front view of a green-and-yellow Lady’s Slipper. Although the orchids were amazingly beautiful, it was often difficult to get good backgrounds for images of the flowers, because of visual clutter. I dealt with the issue by using my macro lens and concentrating on small elements of individual flowers.

My friend and photography mentor, Cindy Dyer, however, was better prepared for this by carrying along a piece of white cardboard to help isolate the flowers and simplify the background. (You should check out her blog for beautiful photos of orchids and other flowers and insects).

The second and third images, which provide a side view of the Lady’s Slipper, were taken with a few seconds of each other, one with the existing background and one using Cindy’s white cardboard. In many ways, I like the look of the white background—it reminds me a little of a botanical print, but it is definitely unnatural.

Which version of the side view do you prefer?


Slipper Side ViewYellowGreenSlipperOrchid

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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