Alberta snapshot: Yellow lady’s slipper orchid.



Yellow lady’s slipper orchid, near Cochrane, Alberta.  Photographed 27 June 2014.

I’m still trying to work out the specific epithet on this beauty: it appears that older literature lists it as Cypripedium calceolus (Eurasian yellow lady’s slipper), but there seems to be a more recent gravitation towards different names for the North American species (of which there are more than one). I’m going to go with C. parviflorum on this, but I’d definitely welcome more information. (UPDATE, December 2017: C. parviflorum it is! Thanks to Ben Rostron for the valuable assistance regarding ID).

No matter what the name, it’s definitely a treat to come across these lovely orchids in the wild!

What kinds of wild orchids grow where you live?


    • When I was browsing around the ‘net trying to sort out the issues with the name, I found out that there are several types in North America – very interesting! It amazes me how adapted they are to our weather.

  1. I think lady slippers are such treasures to come across. We have them in a nature sanctuary here in Red Deer. There is also a little wild flower garden that also has one or two plants.

  2. Really lovely photograph, Slipper orchids are very beautiful. I find it tricky and a tad frustrating to identify wildflowers. Over here we have an Alpine society, which has a helpful website, but even comparing photographs is a tricky business too.

    • I agree – it’s really difficult to get a positive ID sometimes! The variations in colour from region to region, all the subspecies, the differences in light and photography…it’s a headache. And then when there are issues with the names, it makes it even harder. The expertise and experience of growers at a society like the one you mention would be useful, though.

  3. It looks very like one of my most treasured garden plants, Cypripedium kentuckiense, not native here, but one of my most pamperered plants. How wonderful to come across these treasures growing wild.

  4. Oh I love the Lady’s slipper! It can be hard to find here in France depending on the part of the country (unfortunately some people think it’s ok to dig up plants and bring them home)
    There are a lot of wild orchid species here, I would never have realised it but my OH is a botanist and a member of the local Orchidophile society so we go out specifically to look for them.

    • That’s really too bad that the lady’s slippers are hard to find there because people have been removing them from the wild…it happens here, too, unfortunately.

      After I read your comment, I was thinking that going out to specifically look for orchids is the best way to see them – some of them are so small that I would miss them if I was just walking along! You have to go on a hunt.

  5. That’s a beauty. It is always special to see plants growing in the wild and often gives you clues about what they need in the garden to thrive, though often it can seem to conflict with what you read about them!

  6. What a treat to find one in the wild. Used to find lady’s slippers and other orchids in MI and NY, but none here in IL. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen one.

  7. The pink and white lady slipper (Cypripedium reginae) is the state flower for Minnesota. I have seen the pink and white ones a few times. They are not easy to find 🙂

    • The colours were very vibrant, that’s for sure (it was a cloudy, overcast day so that may have translated when I took the photograph). I was surprised that the coral striping was so vivid – I’ve seen them before where that was all faded and didn’t look as nice.

  8. What a magical flower! I have seen them often in Ontario. I am sure there are orchids in Ohio but have not noticed them as of yet. I will pay some extra attention from now on!

  9. I am clueless about orchids, wild or otherwise, but they are beautiful and fascinating!
    love how those petals twist down …

    • Fortunately, these ones are protected in a provincial park! 🙂 But they were in a very obvious location…there’s no way I was the only one who spotted them. Hopefully everyone enjoys them where they are.

  10. Gorgeous photo. This flower is my mother’s favourite so it’s one of the first flowers I knew as a child. (she grew up in Saskatchewan) I live in PEI now and we have wild ladyslippers too but they’re pink. Hard to find though, they are pretty particular about where they like to grow.

  11. Hi, lovely find, and you have done a great job of getting the photo. Someone from the Foothills Orchid Society might be able to help with the identification, just a thought.

  12. We have numerous species of wild orchid growing here in Australia. However, I was born in Saskatchewan, and sure do remember those ladyslippers. I didn’t even know I was looking at an orchid, those many years ago.

  13. Hi Sheryl , my name is Carrie and I have been searching all over looking for a lady slipper plant. My grandmother passed away this past November and the lady slipper was one of her favorite flowers. Where can I find it? Would love to have one in my yard. If you can imagine my aunt that lives out in Airdre bought a miniature lady slipper from a greenhouse in airdre , really cool. I phoned the green house and apparently they don’t order them in every year.

    • Hi, Carrie, thanks so much for your comment! I’m so sorry to hear of your grandmother’s passing. It’s hard to obtain these orchids – the one I have in this photo is a wild one and cannot be legally removed from the park it is growing in. You can order in lady’s slippers from Fraser’s Thimble Farms in Salt Spring Island, B.C. – they have an online catalogue and will ship all over Canada. Some of the local nurseries might bring them in as well but as you say, perhaps not on a regular basis – it would depend on availability. I hope this helps!

  14. Hi Sheryl,
    My name is Cindy.
    I would like to know the name of yellow lady’s-slipper orchids in french.
    I found Orchidée Jaune or Le Sabot de la Vierge.
    Im not sure what is the right answer if its one one them.
    Could you please a
    help me?
    Thanks a lot!

  15. Hi Sheryl,
    I stumbled on your blog while searching for some orchid info on the web (actually, your post on C. striata. I didn’t know you could find striped coral roots right by the Bow River there, I’ll have to check that out).
    Anyway, the latin name for the plant you photographed above I would suggest is Cypripedium parviflorum… and leave it at that. Cyp. calceolus is what we used to call them, but flower morphology and DNA have led to the Eurasian ones retaining Cyp. calceolus, while the North American ones are all called Cyp. parviflorum. There are 4 +/- named varieties in North America, but many specialists still argue about which variety any given plant might be. If you want to step into the debate, call these Cypripedium parviflorum variety pubescens. A while ago, I posted some photographs in an album on my Flickr page ( illustrating some of the different varieties of Cyp. parviflorum, and some of the problems with the names.
    If you are interested, a few of my Alberta orchid photographs were featured here:
    If you email me, I might be able to help you see Corallorhiza trifida, and maculata. You’ve walked by them already, for sure!

    • Hi, Ben, thanks so very much for your comment on my post – I’m pleased and grateful for your input regarding proper naming for the yellow lady’s slipper orchid! I will update my post accordingly. Thank you also for the links to your wonderful orchid photos – wonderful to see! I really appreciate that you took the time to respond.

  16. I’ve had them growing in the ditch in front of our acreage for years – north of Airdrie. It is a mystery to me how they got there and why they think it is a good place to be!

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