Deer in Spring Landscape

White Lady’s-slipper

photo of White Lady's-slipper
White Lady’s-slipper, Cypripedium candidum
Photograph by Rodney Bartgis

This beautiful orchid was first reported to the scientific community in 1805 . Discovered in eastern Pennsylvania, the white lady’s-slipper eventually was found elsewhere, including areas of the Midwest. Typically a plant of wet meadows and prairies, its habitat has been largely drained or plowed. The white lady’s-slipper is now considered rare throughout its range. It has not been seen in Pennsylvania for more than a century. Until recently, its only known populations east of Ohio were in central New York. In 1988, a Natural Heritage Program ecologist discovered a small population in western Maryland. Unlike the white lady’s-slipper’s habitat elsewhere, the Maryland site is a steep, well-drained, wooded hillside.

The pink and yellow lady’s-slippers, both relatively common in Maryland, and the white lady’s-slipper are named for the color of their unique moccasin-shaped flowers. The white species has distinctly sweet-scented white flowers with delicate purple streaking on the inside of the “moccasin”. Many people consider lady’s-slippers to be North America’s loveliest native orchids. Unfortunately, thoughtless picking has eliminated these orchids from some areas. Habitat loss is a more significant threat to the rarer species.

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