The Lady’s Slipper: Cypripedium
The lady’s Slipper, or Cypripedium, is an easily recognizable species from the Orchidaceae family.
The family is commonly known to have fantastic flowers, with flamboyant color and display. Members of this family are normally found to grow in bogs, meadowlands, and woodlands. The flowers all share some common characteristics, such as, possessing three sepals and petals, with markedly bilateral symmetry. The lowest petal, or lip, usually differs from the other two, either in shape, size, or color, possibly all three. Secondly, the center of the flower is recognized by what is known as a column, which consists of the formed style, stigma, and up to three stamens all joined together. The ovary, which is inferior and embedded in the end of the stem helps to support the rest of the flower. Another characteristic of the Orchidaceae family is the twisting that they do during development. This causes what started out as the lowest petal to become the uppermost. This condition is now referred to botanists as resupinate (Rickett 94).
There are several species found within the genus, Cypripedium, but all share the characteristic inflated, slipper-shaped lip, from which the common name originates (Walcott 20). The genus not only gets its name from the large lip of the flower, but botanically from the reference to the slipper or the sandal (pedilum) of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, who was born on the island of Cyprus (Rickett 96). The lady’s slipper differs from other members of the Orchidaceae family due to the two pollen-bearing stamens, which sit on either side of the column near the opening of the “slipper.” The lip has a large opening on the upper surface, which is enclosed by the curved margins of the lip. The two stamens block the lip opening at the base of the plant, and leave only two very small openings on each side of the column at the base (House 64). There is also a third sterile stamen present, which acts as a shield at the tip of the column (Rickett 94). The lip of the lady’s slipper is thought to aid in pollination of the flower. Bees, as well as other insects, enter the lip by the upper opening on the side and feed upon the nectar found inside. When the time comes for the insect to exit the flower, they must crawl past the column, and in the process, take with them some of the sticky pollen masses from the two fertile stamens. Then as they visit another flower, this pollen may come in contact with the new flower (Walcott 20). The other flower parts of the lady’s slipper include the stigma, which goes downward into the cavity of the lip; two lower sepals which are joined, giving the appearance of only two sepals; and a single green bract, similar to the foliage leave but smaller, which stand behind each flower (Rickett 96).
Species of Family
As mentioned earlier there are several types of species of the genus...