Cypripedium candidum

Lindsay is responsible for organizing today’s entry. Lindsay writes:

Thank you to Kathleen Garness for submitting today’s photograph and write-up to help continue the Botany Photo of the Day series on biodiversity success stories. Kathleen is part of Chicago Botanic Garden‘s Plants of Concern program, and Cypripedium candidum is one of the species she monitors. Kathleen writes:

Commonly known as white lady’s slipper, Cypripedium candidum is a species of mesic calcareous prairies and fens, preferring a soil pH of 7.2 to 7.8. In the US Midwest, bloom time ranges from early May to mid-June. Most remaining populations (with a few notable exceptions) are very small, and it is a rare sight to visit a rich prairie in May and marvel at the sight of hundreds of these tiny orchids with their dazzling white pouches like little elven shoes dancing in the sunlight. The plants range in size from 10cm to 42cm in height. The greenish-yellow, tan-striped sepals range from 15mm to 46mm in length, with a white lip, from 17mm to 35mm in length, occasionally veined in purple and/or spotted on the interior rim with purple.

In Illinois (and other states as well), most of those prairies have long been plowed under, but a few remnant areas used for grazing, too wet to plow, or adjoining railroad right-of-ways, had survived development’s relentless spread. Since 1970, with the establishment of the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory, a few dozen populations in 21 counties have been documented and monitored in Illinois. It has also been recorded from Manitoba, Ontario (where it is protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act), Saskatchewan, Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North and South Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In Illinois, Cypripedium candidum is state-listed as “threatened”, downlisted from endangered several years ago.

A long-lived perennial, it can establish clumps of up to 80 blooming stems under good conditions (no invasive shrubs to shade it, little disturbance from mechanical, biological or human impacts, sufficient seasonal water to sustain the mycorrhizal associates essential for recruitment). But unlike other, less conservative species, it shows no tendency to invade disturbed areas, so it is threatened with extinction in Illinois and elsewhere unless conservation efforts succeed. This species has the highest light requirements of any of North America’s native cypripediums, so intensive volunteer resources have been devoted to preserving it in its remaining habitats, removing aggressive or invasive brush (primarily dogwood (Cornus sp.), buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), as well as tall aggressive or invasive forbs and grasses such as tall goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), sawtooth sunflower (Helianthus grosseserratus), common reed (Phragmites australis) and reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea).

Daniel adds: two points of BPotD interest: first of all, BPotD reader Patrick Gracewood on his sculpture blog Shadows on Stone made mention of the Guaiacum sanctum featured on BPotD a few days ago in a blog posting: Sculpture and Lignum Vitae.

Secondly, I think we have enough contributions now for this series. However, we’d really welcome contributions for February’s thematic series, “Biodiversity and Sports”. If you have photographs in the BPotD Flickr Pool that might work, please tag them with “iybfeb”. Or send them along to me — I suspect there will be a lot of wood and fibre species used in sports equipment, but if you can put on your lateral thinking caps, I’d be interested in tangential possibilities as well.

Cypripedium candidum

13 responses to “Cypripedium candidum”

  1. Katherine

    I doubt I have any good photographs, but if this makes someone else think of some photos that they have: biodiversity and sports…
    * traditional turf grasses and alternatives
    * fishing is a sport–what about all the biodiversity required for a good supply of fish? Such as mangrove ecosystems that are a haven for baby fish, algae in lakes, rivers, oceans, etc..
    Just to kick off some thoughts…

  2. Claire on Bainbridge Island

    This is just a lovely plant and a great picture. I was surprised to see that this was not listed as threatened or endangered in West Virginia. My 92 year old plant-loving mother told me recently that one of the pastimes of her childhood was to go hunting for the wild lady-slipper orchids in the woods (they didn’t usually pick them–her own mother was wise in the way of plants and collected herbs for healing and wouldn’t let them pick more than one). My mother lamented that they seemed to have disappeared as she grew to adulthood…can anyone shed light on this? The hills around her childhood home are not terribly densely populated…most people live on many acres of land. What would contribute to the demise of the lady slipper orchid in this setting? Acid rain? Climate change? Or, maybe it is not endangered in West Virginia? Can anyone add to the story in West Virginia? Thank you.

  3. Kathleen Garness

    Cypripedium candidum is not recorded from West Virginia, according to the Flora of North America. However, the pink Cypripedium acaule, yellow Cyp. parviflorum and the regal pink and white Cyp. reginae (listed as endangered in W. Va) are. Dr. Melissa McCormick from the Smithsonian is currently researching orchids as indicator species of climate change and there seems to be a positive correlation, especially when you consider how dependent orchids are to sensitive, moisture-loving soil fungi. And florists and collectors have also contributed to their disappearance; it’s a rare treat to find a native orchid on a walk in the woods!

  4. annie Morgan

    I’ve never seen this little orchid, but used to see pink lady’s slippers covering multi square yards up on Manitoulin Island back in the ’60s. Lovely photo.

  5. Robin Lee Hewitt

    I grew up in rural Connecticut and I used to find these in the woods when I was a child. I was always so thrilled when I came across one. Such a beautiful flower. I wouldn’t say they were plentiful then, but I would always be able to come across them at certain times of the year – I think it must have been spring. It is sad to think that they are disappearing.

  6. beverley bowhay

    Smither BC wooded areas had pink ladyslippers in bloom for Mother’s day. We picked them by the handful and enjoyed the delicate aroma. Don’t know about conditions there now…this was in the 70’s.

  7. elizabeth a airhart

    i can indeed see the little folk danceing
    in the moonlight if one is quiet one can
    here the music and tinkly little bells
    i have been visting your web site kathleen
    been clicking on links reading wonderful reading
    are you in the pictures the new center is lovely
    and will take the newsletter. thank you
    bows and arrows daniel

  8. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Bamboo! for February’s series.
    … fishing poles, pole-vaulting (originally), limbo dancing, tent supports, sports involving boats and rafts, perhaps some martial arts …
    Those come to me just quickly off the top of my head, but I suspect there are other connections between bamboo and sports — especially in more traditional /less developed settings, or if one goes back a bit into history.
    And there are so many varieties of bamboo, I would guess that the stems from different types would have different characteristics.

  9. Bonnie K.

    We have this plant growing in the eastern Pennsylvania woods around our house. Our soil is very acid and most trees are pines or oaks. I am always delighted to see these little plants, but did not realize they were so rare. They don’t get that much sunlight so perhaps it is a different plant from the one pictured above. They don’t bloom for long. I go hunting for them in April and often discover them in different places. Last year, a wet spring, was a really good year for them. I wonder if our deer eat them but have never seen that.

  10. Brian A. O'Brien

    There’s a gigantic colony of this plant along the Minnesota River near St. Peter, Minnesota. I, interested students (from Gustavus Adolphus College, where I teach chemistry) and other interested parties have been visiting the colony for years. The plants come into flower in late May – early June. There are thousands of plants there, with some clumps that have 20-35 flowers.
    The colony is under severe threat from a reed canary grass invasion, and I would appreciate it if people who have dealt with this invasive species before could provide some advice on control. Comments can be made via the Flickr set that I have on the colony. Here’s the link, which includes many photos of spectacular specimens of Cypripedum candidum.

  11. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    A few more thoughts, after a little brain-storming with my husband, related to February’s topic of “biodiversity and sports”.
    Many plant-derived products are used in sports activities, or in manufacturing/maintaining sports equipment.
    Apart from the obvious ones (cotton, wood, and sisal)…. how about these:
    All of the various gums (golf balls, the many rubber or latex materials e.g. in tires, sports shoes); resins; glues/adhesives; waxes and oils (e.g for treating leather or wood, for coating skis and snowboards, for lubricating mechanical equipment [e.g. bicycles, anything with wheels or engine or moving parts] ); tars (for boat hulls); lacquers; dyes.
    Some specific examples…..
    — Gutta percha — a tropical tree which is the source of a natural latex that was used for the interior of golf balls, among its various other uses
    — One source of wax is bees — declining populations of bees is a concern, not only for the sake of the bee species alone, but for their role in the pollination of many plant species
    — Carnauba wax comes from the leaves of a particular palm tree (Copernicia prunifera) in Brazil.
    — A detail from Wikipedia — re the sport of surfing — surfboard wax is a combination of carnauba wax and coconut oil.
    — Combination of carnauba wax and beeswax is often used to treat leather.
    — Cork — for applying ski wax, and probably numerous other uses that I haven’t thought of yet.
    — Straw used in curling brooms, and in the whisks that umpires used to use to brush off the home plate.
    — African board games using nuts and seeds (although not exactly a sport).
    — Various oils and waxes are used as ointments to lubricate and protect the skin of people engaging in sports activities.
    — Many medicines are derived from (or were originally derived from) plant species — medication for pain relief and anti-inflammation would be common in sports.
    — and, not to leave out wooden spears and poles — tossing the caber, throwing the javelin, and, as mentioned in earlier posts: archery equipment and fishing-poles and pole-vaulting.
    I’m thinking of “biodiversity and sports” in two ways — in terms of the diverse variety of species relevant to sports, and also in terms of the whole habitat or ecosystem of which those species are a part, and in which they have complex interconnections (e.g. the role of bees in an ecosystem). So for example, tropical trees, if I’m not mistaken, are typically the sources of natural gums and rubber-like substances, and various tropical plants are the sources of numerous medicines. The concern is not only about the loss of a particular species of tree or plant, but of whole areas of the tropical forests which are home to the species. When the forest goes, thousands of species are lost with it. Last night, I watched the episode on tropical rainforests (jungles) that is part of the BBC series, “Planet Earth”, and learned that a single hectare of jungle contains up to 250 species of tree.

  12. Daniel Mosquin

    Excellent suggestions, Mary Ann. I very much appreciate the time you and your spouse put into developing that list.

  13. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    You’re welcome, Daniel. It was an interesting exercise. We stopped after a short while, but I had the sense that the list would be almost endless, if we just kept following strands — and that was thinking only within the constraints of “sports”.
    It reminded me how embedded we are in the natural world, particularly the plant world.

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