Fairy slipper orchid from Emmigrant Springs State Park, east of Pendleton, OR...........late May, 1999.
Fairy slipper orchid is a beautiful wildflower with simple stems arising from 5-20 cm from an ovoid corm. The stems are reddish and smooth (not haired). A ovate-elliptic to oblong-ovate leaf from 3-6 cm long and parallel veined may be found at ground level, attached to the top of the corm. The long slender petiole is about as long as the leaf blade. This leaf is produced in the fall and persists to the spring before withering after bloom in the summer.
The single flower is about 2.5 cm long and has a slight fragrance. The 3 sepals and 2 petals are similar in appearance, spreading to ascending, measuring about 15-22 mm long with a lanceolate shape and magenta coloration. The 3rd petal or lip is descending somewhat longer and wider than the other flower parts. It is usually about 10 mm wide, whitish to yellowish or reddish-purple with numerous brownish-purple dots.The lady slipper should be enjoyed in the forest without picking it. Thoughtless people who do pick it often end up taking the corm with them by accident, which then destroys the plant!
The fairy slipper orchid may be found in cool, moist, shady forests in soils rich with decaying leaves, needles, and wood. It may be found from near sea level to fairly high in the mountains.
The fairy slipper orchid is found over much of Eurasia and North America. Of the latter continent, it may be found from Alaska to Labrador and southwards to California, Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, and Maine.