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Showy Lady’s Slippers Flowering

6-23-14 showy lady's slipper 139As with Pink and Yellow Lady’s Slippers, one of Showy Lady’s Slipper’s three petals is greatly modified into a large inflated pouch called the labellum. The two other petals attract pollinators with an alluring odor, but the insects that enter into this pouch are in for a disappointment, as lady’s slippers produce little or no nectar. Once inside, visiting insects are guided by very fine, slanting hairs on the inner surface of the pouch towards the flower’s pistil and stamens. Once it has entered the constricted passageway that leads to the reproductive parts, an insect cannot turn around and must pass by the pistil and stamens. Lady’s slippers rarely self-pollinate, so it is crucial that they not only attract, but also extract pollen from insects to achieve cross-pollination. Thanks to their structure, this happens more often than not. The flowering of Showy Lady’s Slippers peaks in Mid-June in central Vermont; if you know of a nearby fen (peat wetland that gets its water from rainfall and surface water), best visit it soon, as that’s where you’re most likely to find this species of orchid.

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6 responses

  1. Sue Wetmore

    This year at Eshqua Bog the showy lady slippers are late in blooming. I was there a week ago and just a few had opened. Our cool spring probable cause.

    June 23, 2014 at 11:05 am

  2. Dianne and Ed

    Hi Mary,

    I was at Eshqua Bog ( Fen) yesterday with a friend from Hartland UU Church……..It was like entering a “Fairyland” 🙂 I was sharing with my family, and now I have this post to share with them. THANK YOU THANK YOU.

    Dianne

    June 23, 2014 at 11:51 am

  3. Jon Binhammer

    Nice post, but to be more accurate, fens receive most of their water from groundwater that has picked up calcium and magnesium carbonates from deep marine metamorphic bedrock; this makes fens more alkaline. Bogs get most of their water via rainfall, which is naturally slightly acidic.

    Eshqua Bog is probably the best place to see showy lady’s slippers, because there is a boardwalk to keep your feet dry (and not trample the orchids), and it’s right off the road in Hartland, VT. Check out tnc.org/vermont for directions.

    Jon

    June 23, 2014 at 1:40 pm

  4. Nature’s evolution is amazing to me. How long did it take for the orchid and insect to create this relationship – it boggles the mind!

    June 23, 2014 at 3:11 pm

  5. Peter Hollinger

    Back in the 1980s, we used to think of July 4th weekend as lady-slipper weekend. Has the flowering season shifted earlier through the years?

    June 23, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    • I’m afraid so — global warming, etc.

      June 24, 2014 at 12:01 am

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