Today I have some very special wildflowers to share with you. I went on a bit of a search for these, and lucked into several great patches, thanks to my friend Gail. It's a long story... I had told several blogger friends about my plan to do more Wildflower Wednesday posts this year, and that I was on the lookout for wildflowers, especially the less common ones. Gail told me they had seen a flower last spring that was unfamiliar to them so I told her to send me the photo. When I saw it I nearly flipped as it was a beautiful pink Lady's Slipper. I have not seen a Lady's Slipper for 28 years; I clearly remember where the last patch I found was, while teaching at Riverview High. Sadly that area now is all a new subdivision.
Lady's Slippers hold a special (nostalgic) place in my heart. My mother was a great lover of nature, something she came by honestly as her father had the same love. He spent a lot of time in the woods and knew where to find just about any plant one could name. She told me he always knew where to find the Lady's Slippers. As I said, I have not seen Lady's Slippers growing for many years so I was excited at the possibility of easily accessing some for photographs. I
travelled with Gail and her hubby down to their cottage (about an hour's drive from my home) several weeks ago when they were opening their cottage for the season. We looked and looked but no signs of any Lady's Slippers. I had thought it might be a bit too early, and so it seemed. I saw leaves that I thought might be the plants but not having seen them for so long, I was unsure. A week later she called and said they were there - in full bloom. Obviously the stalks and flowers grow quickly. The timing was not right- I could not get there that weekend so she promised to flag them so I could find them easily. I told her not to make the "flags" too obvious as I feared someone walking by, spying them and picking or digging them before I could get there...
So, last Tuesday as I headed to Halifax for Quilt Canada, I detoured to Gail's cottage, camera in hand. Dressed in old jeans and my duckies (short rubber boots) and prepared with an old beach towel and several plastic garbage bags to spread on the very wet ground, I exited the car to the waiting ravenous hordes of blood-thirsty mosquitos and the misty rain. Let me tell you, these photos were snapped as quickly as any have ever been, as I swatted and ducked. I took 21 shots in
under two minutes flat, and that includes the run up the long driveway from one patch to the other... Nothing like a descending cloud of hungry 'skeeters to spur one on to "get the job done"!! But it was worth it! These beautiful delicate members of the orchid family did not disappoint.
Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium aculae), a large showy woodland wildflower, is a member of the Orchid family. They grow in a variety of habitats, in mixed hardwood coniferous forests, on mossy or rocky slopes, preferring acidic well drained soil. The plant has two basal leaves with obvious ribbing, and the single flower sits atop a hairy erect stalk. The plant is usually 10-15" tall and blooms in late spring in this area. Also known as Mocassin Flower, the bloom resembles a pouch or slipper - the inflated pouch-like petal has a slit down the front. Like most orchids, the Lady's Slipper is symbiotic (remember that word from Biology class?) This means it lives together in a mutually advantageous relationship with another organism - in this case a particular fungus in the soil. Orchid seeds do not have a food supply inside them like most other seeds do. Pink Lady's Slipper seeds need threads of the fungus to break open the seeds and attach themselves to it. The fungus then passes on food and
nutrients to nourish the seed. Later when the plant is older, the fungus will extract nutrients from the orchid's roots. This is the mutually beneficial relationship known as symbiosis. Isn't nature fascinating?? Because the plant requires this particular fungus in the soil to survive and reproduce, it propagates very poorly and is difficult to grow in wildflower gardens. So if you ever see or find Lady's Slippers, enjoy them with your eyes only and leave them where they are! Because they have been over-collected by misguided gardeners attempting transplantation, and also suffer habitat loss to development, these beautiful plants are now rapidly disappearing and to my knowledge are a protected species.
The flower of the Pink Lady's Slipper ranges from a magenta (purplish-pink) to the lighter pink you see above. Some blooms can be a very pale pink, but all have the darker pink veining. Rarely the blooms are totally white - so I guess these white flowers are an "albino" version of the Pink Lady's Slipper.
Back to the story of my quest to find these rare beauties - when in Halifax last week, daughter and I spied them growing in both Point Pleasant Park and in Sanford Flemming Park. Go figure!!
Tomorrow- back to more quilts from Quilt Canada...
"Nature has been mastering itself for some time now, and it is an honor to be able to capture its beauty." ~ Justin Beckett