Clustered lady's slipper about one week past peak bloom from along the old Blewett Pass Highway, central Washington.........June 4, 2015. Note the numerous spreading hairs on the stems.
The clustered lady's slipper is an attractive wildflower with erect, leafy stems from 5- 20 cm in height. The stems are somewhat covered with long, straight, woolly hairs. A pair of opposite to subopposite leaves are found above mid stem and one or two leafy bracts maybe found near the inflorescence. The larger leaves at mid stem are sessile, oblong-elliptic or widely elliptic with an obtuse to slightly acute tip. Venation is parallel, and the leaves are about 4-8 cm wide.
The one to four flowers are in a tight cluster subtended by greenish bracts (See photo at right.). The 3 sepals are greenish-brown or greenish-purple with purple lines or mottling. Their shape is lanceolate-acuminate, and they may be from 12-25 mm long. The lower pair of sepals are either fused completely or free at the tips only. The petals are similar to the sepals but wider. The conspicuous lower lip is ovoid, pouch-shaped, and greenish-yellow with brownish-purple margins and a purplish tinge.
Like many other large orchids, the clustered lady's slipper should be admired in its natural environment and not picked or dug. Generally, the plants do not survive transplanting and picking may reduce the chances for survival by robbing the plant of much of its photosynthetic capabilities.
The clustered lady's slipper may be found on dry to fairly moist ground both in coniferous and oak forests.
Clustered lady's slipper is found from southern British Columbia east to Montana, and south along the east side of the Cascades to Santa Cruz County, California, and south to Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming.