These photographs are from my first-ever encounter with Cypripedium montanum, which occurred this past June north of Lytton, British Columbia. I also photographed it a few weeks later northwest of La Grande, Oregon.
Mountain lady’s slipper is another native of western North America, with its range extending east as far as south central Montana and north central Wyoming. Curiously, despite its main range extending as far north as central British Columbia in the interior and only to a small portion of southwestern British Columbia along the coast, it can also be found in the Alaska Panhandle — a discontinuous distribution with a minimum gap of 750km.
The Flora of North America lists Cypripedium montanum as having a habitat of “mesic to dry (rarely wet) coniferous, deciduous, and broadleaf evergreen forests, openings, and thickets, around shrubs on open slopes”. Today’s photographs were taken along the exposed banks of a roadside, and all of the half-dozen or so plants I observed on this trip were covered in gravel-dust. More photographs of this species are available from the Burke Museum: Cypripedium montanum.
In Daniel Moerman’s exhaustive Native American Ethnobotany, only one reference is made to a First Nations use of this species. Members of the Okanagan-Colville Nation purportedly used an infusion of the leaves and stalks as a reproductive aid (the infusion was “taken by a pregnant woman to have a small baby”). Source reference for this was a 1980 report by Nancy Turner and colleagues of the Royal British Columbia Museum, “Ethnobotany of the Okanagan-Colville Indians of British Columbia and Washington. As an incidental aside, Dr. Turner worked as a summer student at UBC Botanical Garden sometime in the 1970s.
Lastly, another note for local readers. I’ll be presenting on Monday night (number five of at least seven this month), this time on the topic of “Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia” to the Langley Garden Club. If you’d like to attend, the meeting begins at 7:30pm in Murrayville Hall at 21667 48th Avenue (there will likely be a small guest fee to attend).