Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A lady's-slipper trifecta

A lone pink lady's-slipper, Cypripedium acaule, stands sentinel in a dry northern Michigan woods.

We've been exploring far and wide in the incredibly diverse habitats found within Presque Isle County. This may be the most varied of lower peninsula counties - it has it all. Beaches, alvars, and fens along the Lake Huron coast; cold spruce bogs; dry jack pine forests; cedar swamps; marshes and much more.

Yellow lady's-slippers, Cypripedium parviflorum, framed by white cedar. Along with all of the habitat diversity comes a great variety of plant life; staggering in places. The lady's-slipper orchids are always a hit. From my experience, pink slippers - such as in the first shot - are rather local, and a bit hard to find. Not so with the yellow slippers; get yourself in the right spot and they, dare I say, can practically be weedy.

The slippers in this photo are especially noteworthy as they are two "doubles" growing side by side. Most yellow lady's-slippers sport but a single blossom; every now and then one is found with two flowers. I don't think I've ever run across two side by side doubles, and needless to say, many photos of this photogenic pair were made.

I'll never tire of looking at these fabulous orchids. The name "lady's-slipper" stems from the flowers' appearance - they look like little shoes.

The cream of the lady's-slipper crop awaited us in this rather unassuming pineland. Overlain by towering red pines, the rather barren and acidic soil hosts a dozen or so very special orchids.

A true elfin of the orchid realm, a ram's-head orchid, Cypripedium arietinum. These tiny lady's-slippers rise to a height of eight inches or so, and are very easy to miss. I had found three plants not far from this spot, two seasons ago. Nina Harfmann went out the other day to scout for them, and thought she was in the correct spot. She wasn't, but as fate would have it her directional miscue stumbled her into the path of this even nicer group of ram's-heads.

Blood-red-maroon below and frosted white above, the ram's-head flower is copiously fringed with tiny white hairs. The flower is small indeed - only an inch or so long. They're a treat to behold, and a photographer's dream. We took the group to admire these ram's-heads this morning, and they elicited many oohs and aahs, and scores of photos were made.



rebecca said...

Wow! I've never seen lady's-slippers before but I've got my fingers crossed for this spring. I live in northern Wisconsin.

A.L. Gibson said...

Nice post, Jim! Looks like you're having a great time up there! I finally got to see the ram's heads on the Bruce last year; one of my absolute favorite orchids.

becky said...

our pink lady slippers are blooming at Cedar Bog in Champaign Co., OH