Cypripedium acaule

Of my many enjoyable botanical experiences of 2010, I would rank highly the afternoon I spent with Brian Carson of the Ottawa area in early June. Brian is an avid Trillium enthusiast, and especially keen on finding double-flowered individuals in the wild. Given the rareness of double-flowered trilliums, this necessitates a lot of exploration — and that experience in seeking out wildflowers in forests made Brian an excellent guide (I don’t often get taken to see plants, instead either leading others or exploring on my own). Among other things, Brian took me to see a very densely growing population of hundreds of Cypripedium acaule, or moccasin’s flower, growing with little else in the pine needle duff of (what I vaguely recall to be) a Pinus resinosa plantation.

If you’re a long-time reader of BPotD and have a sense of plant biodiversity, you’ll know that terrestrial orchids of North America are hugely overrepresented on Botany Photo of the Day in proportion to any other grouping of plant species. To me, though, they are some of the first species I recognized as such — it helped growing up near two ecological reserves in Manitoba set aside specifically for preserving orchid species (Libau Bog and Brokenhead Wetland). However, despite all the orchids nearby, I only remember observing a few plants of Cypripedium acaule in a single location in the Mars Hill Wildlife Management Area during my time there (MHWMA was even nearer to my home). It was a special treat to see hundreds of plants, even though the species itself is widespread in eastern North America and extending into boreal western Canada. In some jurisdictions, it is rare or endangered (e.g., Illinois).

The Manitoba and Quebec locales where I’ve seen Cypripedium acaule both had the well-draining (sandy) and acidic soils with partial shade typically preferred by the species. I saw two other plants in bloom during that early June trip in Ontario at the Mer Bleue Conservation Area near Ottawa, but these were growing in sphagnum and with more exposure to the sun.

The epithet acaule means “stemless”, so named because the flower is borne on a scape: a leafless axis that arises directly from a caudex or rhizome at or near the surface of the ground.

Flora of North America has a scientific description of Cypripedium acaule, while the Digital Flora of Newfoundland and Labrador Vascular Plants has many more images: Cypripedium acaule.

Cypripedium acaule

8 responses to “Cypripedium acaule”

  1. Kathleen Garness

    Beautiful! I fear Cyp. acaule might even be extirpated in Illinois. Researcher Marlin Bowles from Morton Arboretum and one IDNR biologist were the last two people to see them alive, and when the two monitored populations were revisited 10 years ago the plants were drowned by brush – specifically buckthorn and non-native honeysuckle. Another researcher told me that there used to be Cyp. acaule-filled bogs in Berwyn, IL (just outside Chicago city limits), where now there are only strip malls with car dealerships. I am so happy they are thriving in Canada! : )

  2. elizabeth a airhart

    lovely sweet flower
    gently at night how lovely
    the virgin snow falls
    each ice crystal a pattern
    silently drifting down
    a comfort in the darkness
    of the night my thoughts
    drifting as quietly as the
    snow in silent meditation elz a
    merry christmas to daniel and to the world of people
    who leave thier words and thoughts on this page for all to share

  3. Don Fenton

    Isn’t it a darling? Orchids are/were my first loves in the plant world. All the best of the seasonals to Daniel and the Botyany Photy crew.

  4. Sue Webster

    There is always something special about orchids. Seeing the photos of the shoots coming up on one of the links reminded me of when I was a child in Australia and went looking for orchids in the bush with my father. There’s that wonderful sense of finding a treasure when you see that shiny bud coming through the litter on the ground. Happy holidays to all!

  5. Bonnie

    The simplicity of the picture just adds to the elegance. Thank you.

  6. Joyce

    Merry Christmas to All of You 🙂
    Joyce, in Toronto

  7. Eric Simpson

    Great photo, Daniel! However, since you make a point of mentioning the rarity of seeing hundreds of these in one place, how about a picture of same (even if not up to your high critical standards)?

  8. swampr0se

    This is a really lovely photo of one of my favourite plants. The light is wonderful. When I come across a moccasin flower, it is always a great day.

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