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Yellow Lady’s Slipper Flowering

5-30-13 yellow lady's slipper 063There are only about three short weeks in the late spring when the blossoms of Yellow Lady’s Slippers grace our woodlands and wetlands. The production of an orchid is a complicated process. If pollination and fertilization are successful, hundreds of thousands of some of the smallest seeds of any flowers are scattered by the wind. The seeds of Yellow Lady’s Slippers (and other orchids), unlike those of most flowering plants, contain no food for the seedling plant. In addition, the coating surrounding the seed is extremely tough, so much so that the seed can’t germinate until Rhizoctonia fungi digest the outer coating, which allows the inner seed to access soil nutrients. This can take two years or more and then it may take another few years for the plant to produce a flower.

12 responses

  1. jan gendreau

    I just returned from a walk in our local woods. The goal was to see our big patch of pink lady slippers. We’ve lined up a walk w/ Burr Morse to see the showy lady slipper w/in the next few wks and were remarking that we needed to find a yellow one! Your photo will hold us until we find one in the flesh!

    May 30, 2013 at 2:23 pm

  2. Candace Maher

    beautiful photo.
    They seem so different than the white and the pink.
    Is it really necessary to have an add for Asian women on your website?
    The website is so great, it seems strange and out of character.

    May 30, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    • HI Candace,
      You are the only person who has mentioned an ad on my website. I do not earn a cent from my blog, so there should not be any ads on it at all. Is this a daily occurrence?

      May 30, 2013 at 3:33 pm

  3. Cindy

    There is always an ad – sold by the folks who run and maintain these sorts of sites. You just have to ignore it the best you can. Or buy Mary’s book – which is excellent! No ads there! 🙂

    May 31, 2013 at 12:03 pm

  4. My dad sent me some photos of yellow lady’s slippers that he snapped in (waaaay) upstate NY. I am a little envious–I only have the pink growing near me in Massachusetts.

    (On another topic entirely: I’ve never seen any ads on this site. If you’re seeing them, I’d venture a guess your own computer could be infected with something.

    May 31, 2013 at 7:38 pm

  5. Cheryl

    Do all lady slippers regenerate the same way? A friend wanted some seed from mine, but she thought ants carried the seeds.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    • Hi Cheryl,
      It’s my understanding that the seeds of all lady’s slippers in the genus Cypripedium are distributed by the wind. Ants are inclined to take seeds of flowers like bloodroot and violets that have a bit of fatty substance attached to them (called an elaisome) — they carry the seeds down underground, eat the elaisome and discard the seed, where it is perfectly situated to germinate. Cypripedium seeds not only don’t have elaisomes, but they lack any food at all.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:55 pm

      • Cheryl

        Thank you. Your explanation about how they spread explained why we didn’t have some for a few years. Now we have patches explanding to all the open wooded areas of our property, much to the delight of other nature lovers and us. Love your blog–photos are spectacular!

        June 1, 2013 at 1:11 pm

  6. I didn’t know the fungi was required for the seeds to sprout. Interesting!

    June 1, 2013 at 7:21 pm

  7. Cheryl

    Yes, A researcher at Rutgers unlocked the secret of what they need, which is why you now find them for sale from a few nurseries. I haven’t seen any but the pink ones available yet.

    June 1, 2013 at 10:46 pm

  8. I saw several pink Lady’s slippers last week, but never yellow. No wonder they are hard to see with such a difficult seeding and germinating process.

    June 1, 2013 at 11:40 pm

  9. Bob Rose

    I live in Alberta Canada where at times Yellow lady slippers will grow on the ditch banks of recently graded roads. Often the farmers who have land don’t have them on their land so if the seeds only spread by wind they have moved many miles. It would seem there is some way they travel,perhaps in birds, to where they manage to grow. I have seen Juncos eating the seeds from pods in October so they may find some food in them. I have some in my garden and am interested in how they do things.

    June 9, 2013 at 4:36 pm

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