Landscape Spotlight: Showy Lady Slipper ‘Cypripedium reginae’

Posted June 27, 2019 in Plant and Tree

If you come across a Showy Lady Slipper wild orchid, take pictures because it is a rare find.  It’s bloom time is between 7-14 days to capture its beauty. Every horticulturist wants to find one of these showy orchids to admire. Its unique flower form promotes a lot of attention, hence making it a rare sight to see. While wild orchids grow around the globe, and many have adjusted to harsh elements, growing one is another matter.

Threatened & Endangered: Don’t Pick the Orchids

The showy lady slipper orchid only grows in the wild and will not survive when moved. Not disturbing their natural habitat will help them endure. In fact, it is illegal to pick or remove this unique specimen. The flower is considered rare in 14 states including Pennsylvania, where it is listed as ‘threatened.’ In nearby New Jersey, lists it as ‘endangered.’

Why is the Showy Lady Slipper Rare?

The lady’s slipper orchid is at risk due to collectors transplanting. Other predators include white-tailed deer that find it a rare treat.  While the wild orchids produce tiny seeds, its reproduction is primarily asexual reproduction. Furthermore, it takes nearly 16 years to flower for the first time.

The loss of wetland habitats where these wild orchids thrive is diminishing. Poor water quality adds to its demise. Habitat loss is also due to their needing specific microclimates to thrive.

Where can I find one?

This native lady slipper orchid is native to the Northeast and Midwest. You can find them in deciduous woodlands and wetlands with fertile organic soil. Alkaline or limestone base soils are where they perform best and reproduce.

Rarely can you find one available through a nursery but when you do, they are very pricey. If you do find a reputable nursery, make sure they have harvested the seeds according to the laws of the state and forestry service.

Description of a Showy Lady Slipper

The native orchid stretches its hairy leaf stalk to some 3 feet tall which makes it easier to see. The blooms display from May to August depending on the location and environment. The petals and sepals of this lovely flower are white. The deep rose to magenta pouch (labellum) that is nearly 2 inches long spherically with rolled edges won’t go unnoticed. Tiny maroon specs stripe the inside of the labellum, increasing its beauty.  Three to five large, elliptical hairy leaves grow on each stem. Mature flowers clump together with 1-3 buds on each stem. This perennial wild orchid grows in Zones 2a-7b in low to moderate elevations.

Caring for a Wild Orchid

If you’re lucky enough to have this Moccasin flower (common name) growing in a backyard habitat, guard and protect it. Do not disturb the area around or try to harvest any part of the plant for breeding. The ladies slipper certainly is not a beginner gardeners plant to do trial and error experiments. If in doubt on how to adequately protect it, or if invasive species are nearby, contact your local extension service agent to help access the conditions. A local agent can make suggestions that will enable its survival. Keep traffic and household animals from crushing or stepping on it as well.

These wild orchids are rare and are very finicky about their native conditions.  It’s virtually improbable to recreate one for transplanting. Once Mother Nature has established a perfect spot with the soil types, and water requirements, it’s best to let the natural ecosystem thrive. As for the lucky one to find such a rare sight, keep your camera on and enjoy the natural beauty and bloom.

If you are looking for creative plants that are deciduous to the region and want to create a backyard habitat that brings enjoyment all four seasons, contact MasterPLAN Outdoor Living. We create beautiful landscapes and outdoor spaces throughout the Poconos, the Lehigh Valley and through the Main Line of Philadelphia and western New Jersey.  When you’re ready to get started, reach us here!


Sources: US Forest Service

Minnesota Wildflowers

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