(Cypripedium hirsutum; C. pubescens of Gray) Orchid family

Flower - Solitary, large, showy, borne at the top of a leafy stem

to 2 ft. high. Sepals 3, 2 of them united, greenish or yellowish,

striped with purple or dull red, very long, narrow; 2 petals,

brown, narrower, twisting; the third an inflated sac, open at the

top, 1 to 2 in. long, pale yellow, purple lined white hairs

within; sterile stamen triangular; stigma thick. Leaves: Oval or

elliptic, pointed, 3 to 5 in, long, parallel-nerved, sheathing.

Preferred Habitat - Moist or boggy woods and thickets; hilly


Flowering Season - May-July.

Distribution - Nova Scotia to Alabama, westward to Minnesota and


Swinging outward from a leaf-clasped stem, this orchid attracts

us by its flaunted beauty and decorative form from tip to root,

not less than the aesthetic little bees for which its adornment

and mechanism are so marvelously adapted. Doubtless the heavy,

oily odor is an additional attraction to them. Parallel purplish

lines, converging toward the circular opening of the pale yellow,

inflated pouch, guide the visitor into a spacious banquet-hall

(labellum) such as the pink lady's slipper (q.v.) also entertains

her guests in. Fine hairs within secrete tiny drops of fluid at

their tips - a secretion which hardens into a brittle crust, like

a syrup's, when it dries. Darwin became especially interested in

this flower through a delightful correspondence with Professor

Asa Gray, who was the first to understand it, and he finally

secured a specimen to experiment on.

"I first introduced some flies into the labellum through the

large upper opening," Darwin wrote, "but they were either too

large or too stupid, and did not crawl out properly. I then

caught and placed within the labellum a very small bee which

seemed of about the right size, namely Andrena parvula.... The

bee vainly endeavored to crawl out again the same way it entered,

but always fell backwards, owing to the margins being inflected.

The labellum thus acts like one of those conical traps with the

edges turned inwards, which are sold to catch beetles and

cockroaches in London kitchens. It could not creep out through

the slit between the folded edges of the basal part of the

labellum, as the elongated, triangular, rudimentary stamen here

closes the passage. Ultimately it forced its way out through one

of the small orifices close to one of the anthers, and was found

when caught to be smeared with the glutinous pollen. I then put

the same bee into another labellum; and again it crawled out

through one of the small orifices, always covered with pollen. I

repeated the operation five times, always with the same result. I

afterwards cut away the labellum, so as to examine the stigma,

and found its whole surface covered with pollen. It should be

noticed that an insect in making its escape, must first brush

past the stigma and afterwards one of the anthers, so that it

cannot leave pollen on the stigma, until being already smeared

with pollen from one flower it enters another; and thus there

will be a good chance of cross-fertilization between two distinct

plants.... Thus the use of all parts of the flower, - namely, the

inflected edges, or the polished inner sides of the labellum; the

two orifices and their position close to the anthers and stigma,

- the large size of the medial rudimentary stamen, - are rendered

intelligible. An insect which enters the labellum is thus

compelled to crawl out by one of the two narrow passages, on the

sides of which the pollen-masses and stigma are placed."

These common orchids, which are not at all difficult to

naturalize in a well-drained, shady spot in the garden, should be

lifted with a good ball of earth and plenty of leaf-mould

immediately after flowering. Here we can note little American

Andrena bees unwittingly becoming the flower's slaves. Several

species of exotic cypripediums are so common in the city

florist's shops every one has an opportunity to study their

marvelous structure.

The similar SMALL YELLOW LADY'S SLIPPER (C. parviflorum), a

delicately fragrant orchid about half the size of its big sister,

has a brighter yellow pouch, and occasionally its sepals and

petals are purplish. As they usually grow in the same localities,

and have the same blooming season, opportunities for comparison

are not lacking. This fairer, sweeter, little orchid roams

westward as far as the State of Washington.

FIVEFINGER COMMON CINQUEFOIL FLOWERING DOGWOOD facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail