I’ve chosen a plant that means something to me on a personal level for this, the 100th entry on Botany Photo of the Day. When I was a child, my parents would occasionally take my siblings and me to see natural “exclamation points”. Swarms of fireflies. Great gray owls. And, every summer, lady’s slippers.
Cypripedium reginae is commonly known as the showy lady’s slipper. This photograph was taken last summer in Manitoba, near the Mars Hill Wildlife Management Area. This area includes sand hills deposited from the retreat of the glacial Lake Agassiz, sadly becoming degraded due to overuse. Typical to what I’ve observed in other locations with showy lady’s slippers, this plant was growing in soil that had a high water table and (I’m speculating) subsurface water movement.
Unfortunately, its showiness leads some people to attempt to transplant it from the wild into their gardens, thereby reducing the already declining natural populations (due to habitat loss). Showy lady’s slipper is available from some nurseries, so transplanting from the wild is absolutely unnecessary for those desiring it. Unlike some of its relatives, Cypripedium reginae can be readily grown in gardens with the right conditions – cool, moist, rich soil for its roots, but with a few hours of direct sunlight a day for the aboveground part of the plant.
The Botanical Dermatology Database entry on orchids cites studies that indicate handling Cypripedium reginae can cause an allergic contact dermatitis, similar in effect to the dermatitis caused by poison ivy. While I generally wish well of others, a part of me hopes that some of the people ignorantly transplanting plants from the wild have discovered this about showy lady’s slippers the hard way.