Wednesday, June 8, 2011

North Dakota Lady's Slippers

Who says North Dakota lacks in the wildflower department? The wildlife refuge I work for in North Dakota (Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge) owns and manages twenty-eight waterfowl protection areas (WPA), which include some of the healthiest native plant communities remaining in the state. Yesterday, my supervisor handed me a project to monitor existing populations of lady's slippers - a dream job for me. As I cruised the first area on an ATV, I didn't know what to expect. Before long, I was forced to park the vehicle and walk the rest of the way due to such a heavy abundance of "slippers."

Greater yellow lady's slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin) is a northwestern variety of C. parviflorum. Ohio has the eastern variety "lesser yellow lady's sipper" (Cypripedium parviflorum var. parviflorum), which is endangered there. The last variety of C. parviflorum is the most common (var. pubescens), which is a larger species that prefers less exposed areas such as woodlands. The species above, nor any species I found that day, are currently listed in the county I found them - Foster county.

The most abundant species I found was small white lady's slipper (Cypripedium candidum), which covered the sedge meadows by the hundreds. 

 Deeper into the areas, I came across groups of C. parviflorum var. makasin among C. candidum plants, which are two that have been well documented to create a hybrid, C. x andrewsii. Mind you, I haven't been able to find either of these species in distribution maps for Foster county. They have been found about two counties to the north according to and other sources.

 Soon after I found a group of plants that stuck out like sore thumbs. They were in prime maturity with an ivory color to the lip and maroon - yellow sepals. I immediately thought C. x andrewsii. This plant had never been documented in this county before. I only found these plants near populations of both yellow and white slippers. Flora of North Americas article on C. x andrewsii.

 As if the day hadn't given me enough pleasure, I stumbled upon a small cluster of plants on the very last area I visited. The plants seemed taller than all the others I had seen but perhaps that is due to their added exposure. Anyway, I saw hundreds and hundreds of small white lady's slippers throughout the day and none came remotely close to this extreme and beautiful variant. The lips were speckled with pink glitter and the tongue had a heavy splash of red. A truly beautiful variant!

I can only hope for more opportunities like this. In a couple of weeks, I hope to add to this post with showy lady's slipper (C. reginae) as well.


  1. I just happened to get on just as you published this and couldn't help but be quick to comment! One of my favorite posts of yours yet, Mike! So glad you got to experience something like this. It truly is a botanist's wet dream haha! Keep up the great work out there. I've really enjoyed catching up with you and getting geeky with our plant talk recently! Looking forward to us getting out in the prairies and barrens when you get back in August! You'll love Cypripedium reginae when it blooms soon too :)

  2. Wonderful plants!! Im always in hopes of seeing a lady slipper when Im hiking in the mtns of SC that run alond the foothills of the Blue Ridge SO far I havent seen one in Bloom, but one DAY!!
    Great PHOTOS on your post!!

  3. Sondra, It was so nice to see such beautiful plants in such high numbers. I bet the Native Americans walked through the same sized patches hundreds of years ago. I'm sure you have great biodiversity in SC. I really really want to go south on my way home to do some hiking. I'll message you when I do to get the low down on the area!

  4. Thanks for visiting my fern blog! GORGEOUS photos here, I'm glad to have another plant blog to follow :)

  5. A great find and you took some lovely shots as well Mike.

  6. Love your photography, beautiful captures! I'm looking forward to following your blog and seeing what gorgeous things you shoot next...cheers Julia

  7. These are amazing photos! We only have the Pink Lady Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) down here and we may be near the end of their range too. I'm going to have to make my way north some time to see these.