Stalking the elusive lady slipper

11Jun15

Even after 30-plus Minnesota winters, I’m still astounded every spring when the snow stops, the ground thaws, and life re-emerges. It seems impossible (miraculous!) that anything can survive — especially the little things, like field mice and wildflowers.

I have no field mice to offer today. But I do have a bumper-crop of wildflowers — specifically, Minnesota’s official state flower, the showy lady slipper (Cypripedium reginae, for you fancy-pant botanists).

Eloise Butler lady slipper 1320721 CR BLOG

It’s rare to find these white-and-pink orchids in the wild both because they take a long time to mature, and because they bloom for only a week or two each spring. But my trusty morel-hunting friend Pam knows exactly where to look. (Hint: In the boggy section of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden in Minneapolis.)

Every time I visit, I’m temped to pitch a tent and move there.

Eloise Butler entrance 1320598 BLOG

It’s hard to believe this oasis exists just about three miles from downtown. And because it’s also a teaching facility, it’s a great way to learn about Minnesota’s native flora and fauna.

Still, we weren’t able to name this tree species …

Eloise Butler tree 1320612 CR

… but Pam correctly identified the wild calla lily that was growing along one trail.

Eloise Butler wild calla 1320568 BLOG

We also appreciated the sign that warned of poison ivy. If only it were so easy to spot in the rest of Minnesota’s woods!

Eloise Butler poison ivy 1320586 BLOG

But even in this verdant sanctuary the lady slippers don’t bloom every year. So when they do, word gets out quickly and fans of the flower materialize like fruit flies around a banana.

Eloise Butler mud 1320574 BLOG

Never mind the mud. These people are determined.

Eloise Butler mud 1320632 BLOG

Eloise Butler mud 1320629 BLOG

Unfortunately, some of them are also disobedient and rude. Grrr.

Eloise Butler stay on trail 1320554 BLOG

But I (kind of) understood their craze once I spotted my first bloom.

Eloise Butler lady slipper 1320739 BLOG

Eloise Butler lady slipper 1320716 BLOG

Just down the trail, Pam and I were surprised to find a few more among the grass …

Eloise Butler lady slipper 1320661 BLOG

Eloise Butler lady slipper 1320669 BLOG

… and even some clumps of flowers among the horsetails. In all of our lady-slipper-hunting years we’d never seen anything like this.

Eloise Butler lady slippers 1320541 BLOG

Eloise Butler lady slipper 1320681 BLOG

If the lady slippers are any indication, it’s going to be a wonderful spring in Minnesota.



14 Responses to “Stalking the elusive lady slipper”

  1. Fantastic pictures! Thanks!

  2. So close to my home; I have to get over there. Thanks for this!

  3. Graceful lady slippers. What a beautiful name.

    • 6 hmunro

      Isn’t the name just poetry, Rosa? Even if they’d be quite impractical and uncomfortable as actual slippers, I do *so* love the name. ¡Enorme abrazo!

  4. 7 Cindy

    That second to last photo is my favorite. Really beautiful!

  5. So beautiful! I wish we had them here in SC.

    • 10 hmunro

      *Here* in SC? You’re back already?! My goodness, that went by fast! Hope your time in France was wonderful.

  6. The lady slipper is the official flower of the province where I used to live: http://www.gov.pe.ca/infopei/index.php3?number=1523

    It’s hard to spot there too. I remember one of my friends taking a visitor on a hike in the spring and telling her all about the provincial flower and how rare and delicate it was and hard to find. And her friend pointed right behind where they were standing and said, “You mean like that one?” And, yes, there was a lady slipper plant in bloom 🙂

    • 12 hmunro

      That’s such a funny story, Fiona — and so typical of my experience with these wily flowers, as well. 🙂

  7. Oh wow, I wish I had a friend like Pam, helping me forage and seek natural treasures. What fun you two get up to. Beautiful nature, it never disappoints. 🙂

    • 14 hmunro

      What a sweet note, Rochelle. Thank you! And yes, I do treasure Pam — for all the reasons you mention, and so many more. xx


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