An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Lady Slippers & Resupination

6-6-18 inverted pink lady's slippers by Sue WEtmore DSCN3871 (002)There is just as much learning, or more, going on at my end of this blog as there is at the readers’. A Vermont naturalist recently sent me a photograph of an upside down Pink Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule). Over 50 years in the field and I have never come across this phenomenon, nor was I familiar with the process that produced it.

Some flowers, including many orchids, are “resupinate.” While the flower is developing, the flower stalk does a 180 degree twist, bringing what would be the bottom of the flower to the top. With lady’s slippers, the labellum, or lip, is inverted, so that it ends up not above the other two petals, but below them. This modified petal, or pouch, serves to attract pollinating insects and acts as a landing platform for them. For some unknown reason, the stalks of the pictured Pink Lady’s Slippers never twisted, allowing us to see the original position of the labellum in both flowers. (Photo by Sue Wetmore)

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7 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    Confusing….any guesses why this happens, Mary?

    June 6, 2018 at 7:39 am

    • Absolutely none! But a true botanist might.

      June 8, 2018 at 8:06 am

  2. Allison

    Have you seen many double-flowered lady slippers?

    June 6, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    • Not a one! (The photo was of two individual plants/flowers.)

      June 8, 2018 at 7:57 am

  3. viola

    Nature forever keeps us guessing. I am so grateful.

    June 6, 2018 at 12:48 pm

  4. Midge, Sunapee NH

    Extraordinary and fascinating. I love your blog, especially when I learn something brand new to me … and ALWAYS love the quality of your photos! Thank you!

    June 6, 2018 at 10:23 pm

  5. Susan Holland

    Amazing! I wonder if something interfered with their being able to turn when they should have.

    June 7, 2018 at 2:25 pm

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