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Ram’s-head Lady’s Slippers Flowering

6-6-7 ram's-head orchid 273

Because of the small size of its flower, the brevity of its flowering period, and its rarity (ranked critically imperiled or imperiled throughout its range in New England), Ram’s-Head Lady’s Slipper is notoriously hard to find.  Its preferred habitat is moist, mossy bogs, but it can also be found in mixed woods and uplands.  If you’re fortunate enough to set eyes on one of these orchids, the diminutive size and conical-shape of its flower, compared to other Cypripedium species (Yellow, Pink and Showy Lady’s Slippers), will be strikingly apparent.

The flowers (which appear only if the plant is at least four inches high) mature in mid-May to early June, often developing very rapidly and typically lasting only a week or so. The sepals, lateral petals, and particularly the lower lip, or labellum (pouch made of fused petals), produce a sweet odor to attract potential pollinators, such as small bees.   Once the flower is fertilized, the upper sepal lowers over the opening of the pouch (see insert), excluding additional visitors. Although individual plants can produce copious numbers of minute seeds, reproduction appears to be largely asexual via offshoots of parent plants.

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8 responses


    Those photos are  fantastic! I hope some day to find one to photograph! Thanks you for your posting!Ga

    June 7, 2016 at 9:00 am

  2. Wow, what a delicate flower. Not surprising, given its status, I’ve never seen one. Thank you for showing us one of these rare beauties, Mary.

    June 7, 2016 at 9:12 am

  3. Marilyn

    The photo reminds me of a chewed-off strawberry. We’ve got many pink lady slippers and an occasional white, but this one I will now recognize if I ever find it!

    June 7, 2016 at 9:21 am

  4. It’s so beautiful….a furry lady slipper.

    June 7, 2016 at 2:34 pm

  5. Lucky you. This is high up on my wish list. Re the upper sepal…isn’t it just amazing the way plants and other organisms have evolved to control their destinies?

    June 7, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    • Lucky me is right! And yes, it never ceases to amaze me – from elaiosomes to whip-poor-wills, who I was just told by my daughter time their breeding so that their eggs will hatch near a full moon when providing them with plenty of insects is not a problem…mind boggling. I love your blog, and Quabbin is near and dear to my heart. I grew up on Old Enfield Road in Belchertown, in a house my father took down from one of the flooded towns and put back together less than a mile from the end of my road, which dead ended in Quabbin…an incredible place to grow up!

      June 7, 2016 at 5:54 pm

      • Thanks Mary. As you can tell, I like yours also. Old Enfield Road is one of my favorite spots for sunrise and full moonrise. And, speaking of whip-poor-wills, I hear one most often as I head home in the dark from the end of Old Enfield after shooting a summer full moon.
        My next door neighbor recently did a program at the Quabbin Visitor’s Center about the houses of the lost towns of Quabbin. I’ll ask her if she is familiar with your house.

        June 7, 2016 at 6:10 pm

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