Cypripedium californicum

Thanks again to Ron Long for sharing one of his photographs with us through Botany Photo of the Day. Ron went to the Siskiyou Mountains area of Oregon a couple weeks after we had returned from the area. I gave him directions to some of the areas we investigated that had an incredible diversity of plants, and he was not disappointed (and, in fact, found many different plants that had not yet bloomed when we traveled there). As an example, the Cypripedium californicum was just starting to bloom when Ron visited the area, and we hadn’t identified any plants from leaves alone.

California lady’s slipper, like so very many plants in the Siskiyous area, is native only to northern California and southwest Oregon. It was first discovered in California, hence the dibs on the name. Named in 1868 by Asa Gray, it has the most restricted distribution of any Cypripedium species in North America. The genus Cypripedium is restricted to arctic and temperate climates of the northern hemisphere.

Often growing in association with Darlingtonia californica, California lady’s slipper is found along shady mountain streams and springs.

Much of today’s information is gleaned from Carlyle Luer’s The Native Orchids of the United States and Canada excluding Florida. I’m compelled to quote this passage from the book (page 62): “…The surprisingly long, leafy stems curved gracefully out from the banks…Each stem bore in its upper half and orderly row of little slippers, each accompanied by a leaf. What they lacked in individual beauty was amply compensated by numbers. The long rows of flowers seemed to dangle like lanterns in the checkered sunlight, each facing in precisely the same direction away from the embankment…”

Cypripedium californicum

6 responses to “Cypripedium californicum”

  1. Roberta

    What a sexy flower! Georgia O’Keefe would have loved it!

  2. Eric in SF

    The story here locally is that the last known population of this species in the immediate Bay Area, on Mount Tamalpais, was collected by a botanist for a herbarium specimen, in the 50s. I’m pretty sure today’s botanists are a little more sensitive to these issues. =)

  3. Sue in Bremerton WA

    When I first saw the picture of this little darling, I was ready to plant my fanny in it and relax. Looked so comfortable.. Guess the petals in the back could (underline could) be fans for the summer.
    How excrutiatinly comfortable a chair like that would be.. don’t you think?
    It’s a lovely flower. Hope it smells good. Thanks to Ron Long and to you./

  4. elizabeth a airhart

    this little darling under the full
    moon would have the little folk
    tucking them selves in for the night
    the picture is a delight mr long
    here at the end of the day and of
    a morning tis one i shall save
    thank you both

  5. Denis

    LOL, Sue, when you put it that way, it does have a bit of a toilet seat look to it, albeit a very cushy one.
    Lady slippers have such wonderful flowers, despite the image you just induced in my imagination. I am also fond of the bloom of the more three dimensional members of Impatiens.

  6. Ron B

    Cypripedium commodiformis?
    When I saw this it was growing in sphagnum with Darlingtonia, the little seepage area ringed by western azaleas. All three species were in bloom. A crew building a road into the area had placed a bath tub in the midst of this scene, with a pipe running to the warm spring water. Each night they were able to bathe in this setup and setting.

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