Lady's-slippers in Bloom - Cape Elizabeth Land Trust

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Lady’s-slippers in Bloom

If you’ve been in Robinson Woods or at our Great Pond Preserve recently, you may have seen some of our favorite floral residents of the oak-pine forest—the pink lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium acaule).

Photo by Christian Schorn

This magnificent wildflower is one of the most common orchids native to the Northeast. Lady’s-slippers can grow as far north as the Alaskan tundra. As dainty and elegant as their name may make them sound, they actually thrive in acidic, nutrient-poor soils and difficult conditions—more like steel-toed boots than ‘slippers’!

These flowers have mastered the bait-and-switch. Their ostentatious color and subtle scent invite bumblebees to crawl into the flower’s bulbous lip in search of nectar, but find nothing inside! To get out, the bees crawl through a one-way tunnel that’s generously dusted with pollen. The lady’s-slipper is banking on the bumblebees trying again with a different flower, this time depositing the pollen they’ve picked up. Eventually, the bee wises up and learns to stop wasting time on lady’s-slippers, which in turn, leads to relatively low reproductive rates among the flowers. So please don’t pick any!

Got any good pictures of wildflowers on our trails? Please send them to christian@capelandtrust.org and we may feature them on our social media pages!

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