Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mountain Lady Slipper

Son picked and brought home a Mountain Lady Slipper this afternoon because he thought it looked so cool. He had never seen a flower like that before.

I know that they are endangered and rare in this area, so I freaked out a little. I can't blame him for picking it though as he didn't know.

He showed me where it was in the ditch in front of our home and there are lots growing!

Here is a complete description of the flower from

Mountain Lady's-slipper/Mountain Ladyslipper
Cypripedium montanum
Season: June/July
Habitat: Western Slope Montane
Height: Up to 50 cm

Description: The mountain lady's-slipper is a real treat to discover. It is near extinction in many areas and rare in others. It is instantly recognizable, as are all of our ladyslippers and always adds a bit of excitement to a wildflower walk.

Flower: Unlike our other lady's-slippers, mountain lady's-slipper often has up to three flowers near the top of the plant. They are made up of a white pouch-like flower covered with four reddish-brown sepals. The sepals may twist, and spread widely to expose the entire flower. The white flower has a yellow tongue originating at the base of the pouch, and dropping inside. The tongue may have purple spots on it.

Leaf: The alternate, lily-like leaves are smooth margined, hairy, and loosely clasp the stem. There are usually only four to six egg-shaped to elliptical leaves, with each between 5-16 cm long and 2-8 cm wide. The veins run parallel to the leaf margin.

Fruit/Seed: Like other ladyslippers, thousands of seeds are contained within an erect, elliptical, hairy capsule.

Similar Species: The sparrow's egg orchid (C. passerinum) is the only other lady's-slipper with a white pouch. The brown sepals distinguish it from the green sepals of the sparrows-egg orchid. The yellow lady's-slipper (C. parviflorum) is easily distinguished by its bright yellow pouch and green sepals.

Range: While the Mountain lady's-slipper is widely distributed geographically, it is extremely rare throughout most of Alberta and British Columbia. In many areas it has been nearly wiped out. Look for it in the southern Rockies, in particular Waterton Lakes National Park on the eastern slopes. It is more widely ranging on the western slopes, but still considered uncommon.