Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Passel of Pink Lady Slippers

Pink Lady Slipper Orchids (Cypripedium acaule)

Last  summer when I was poking about in the woods at the site I had visited with VNPS where we found the native Yellow-Fringed Orchids, I had seen some other leaves and a seed pod that looked as if they might be Pink Lady Slipper Orchids, and decided to come back the following spring to verify my find.

After two weeks of plentiful rain, I figured this would be the right blooming time for slipper orchids, so last Sunday I went back to Fort Valley to look for them. With the leaves just emerging and the woods more open, it wasn't hard to locate the area. Lo and behold, here was a huge patch of Pink Lady Slippers in bloom--I counted twenty-seven open flowers with a twenty-eighth one just fading!

Pink Lady Slipper Orchids (Cypripedium acaule)

About twenty feet upstream from this colony I found another three or four flowers--it's amazing how these orchids manage to hide so well in plain sight! I hope these patches flourish for many years, but  I think this particular year may be a rarity--somehow I doubt so many orchids flower at the same time every year. I plan to return next year to check just in case.

Close-up of the flower

In the close-up you can see the pollinia (pollen sac) just behind the staminode (the flap-like triangle at the opening of the slipper).

After such an exciting find, anything would be an anticlimax, but since I had never driven any farther into Fort Valley, I decided to drive on to the small town that takes its name from the valley: a small community of farms in a beautiful setting bounded by mountains.

Farms in Fort Valley

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