Many guides cite the Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) as common in eastern forests, however it is always a nice surprise to come across this lovely spring wildflower.
The Latin word acaule means 'stem less', referring to the leafless flower stem. The stem grows up from two basal leaves.
Lady's Slippers favor pine forests but is also found in deciduous forests which have acidic soils (pH 4-5). The blossoms are light pink to magenta and, occasionally, white. Another variety which is found in Virginia, Cypripedium parviflorum, looks similar but has a yellow blossom.
It takes many years for Pink Lady's Slippers to go from seed to mature plant and requires a specific fungal association.
Like all orchids, the seeds require this symbiotic relationship since the seeds do not contain carbohydrate stores like most seeds to sustain the newly germinated seedling. The threads of the fungus from the genus Rhizoctonia break open the seed pod and provide the plant with soil nutrients that it cannot access on its own.
Native Americans refer to the plant as "moccasin flower" and historically (and currently) use the root as medicine to treat nervousness, insomnia, low fever and a host of other ailments.
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