Meet The Ladies: The Slipper Orchids

Cypripedium montanum: Mountain lady's slipper

Mountain lady's slipper occurs from southwestern Canada to southeastern Alaska south to California and east to Montana and Wyoming in widely separated populations.

the mountain lady's slipper.
Photo by Nan Vance, USDA Forest Service.

Map of the range of Cypripedium montanum in North America.
Courtesy of Flora of North America.

Cypripedium montanum grows individually or in clumps. The plant's stem has up to 5 leaves and at maturity bears 1 to 3 flowers. The petals and sepals are deep magenta-brown and the lip is white with deep magenta venation.

bee crawling out of a mountain lady's slipper.
Photo by Nan Vance, USDA Forest Service.

clump of mountain lady's slipper.
Photo by Nan Vance, USDA Forest Service.

Pollinators are small native bees like the one seen above (left) crawling out of the flower's pouch having transferred pollen in the process.

Cypripedium montanum, like its name suggests, is a montane species, grows in a variety of canopy conditions and soils. Its primary habitat is semi-shady- to-open edge and can be found under, or near coniferous trees or hardwoods such as aspen or dogwood. It tolerates drier conditions than many of the other species in this genus. In the montane West, its association with Douglas-fir and shrubs such as ninebarkand snowberry indicates it has existed for centuries in habitat shaped by wildfire.

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