Lady slippers are so beautiful, can I grow them?

gwtamaraJanuary 1, 2013

Posted by Joan Zimmerman: I just saw a picture of Lady Slippers in "Country" magazine, and I just have to have them. Is there any place I can get them? Can they be grown under a large Maple tree in the shade?

Char Bezanson: In Minnesota, where the pink Showy Ladyslipper is the state flower, they are becoming rare. A quote from Welby Smith, Minnesota State Botanist and author of the recently published book Orchids of Minnesota: "Our native orchids, and indeed all our native plants, are in a steep decline. Loss of habitat is the main cause, but even where habitat can be protected, orchids still face the threat of species-specific exploitation. Stories abound of unscrupulous nursery workers removing truckloads of yellow ladyslippers from forests... These orchids often end up in reputable nurseries under the misleading label of 'nursery propagated', which means only that they have been held in the nursery for a minimum of one growing season. There has been some recent success with tissue culturing,
but survival is poor. Some can be propagated through division, but the process is so slow it is commercially unviable. As a result, essentially all of the native orchids that are sold commercially are taken from the wild."

Linda Darnton: In Michigan, Ladyslippers are an endangered species. The few in my area grow in extremely moist organic soil in the shade. If one comes across a patch, it is kept a secret. Further, they do not always appear each year.

Ron m: I have been working with yellow lady slippers,they take 3 years from seed to flower. The only current technique is to flask the seeds in a technique called sterile propagation.I have checked from coast to coast and there are no commercial growers anywhere in the USA . All flowers are currently being harvested from the wild !!

Skip MNZ4: There are several insects that pollinate Cypripedium spp, as well as some of the other native orchids. The job falls to bees, moths, butterflies,
gnats, mosquitos (tell that to your local mosquito control advocates) although I have been told that pollination by insects for a large number of native orchids has not been observed. It is true that the insect, say the bee, gets scant little in return for all the trouble. It has to be tricked twice in order for pollination to occur. Once on the way in to pick up the pollen and a second time on the visit to a different flower. So you see, it doesn't take a retarded bee, just one that hasn't been instructed in the ways of the native orchids.

Alex T. - 5: What is this mycorhizal fungus that affects members of the Cypripedium genera?

Skip MNZ4: With respect to the fungus that is reportedly attacking members of the Genus Cypripedium, permit me to quote from Orchids of Minnesota by Welby R. Smith. Smith is a botanist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and coordinator of the endangered plant species program. This presumably symbiotic union is termed "mycorrhiza." In this association, the threadlike fungal hyphae enter the orchid through specialized cells on the root or rhizome. Once inside, the contents of the hyphae are expelled by the fungus and digested by the orchid.

jennifer Patton - 4: I buy this fungus in pellet form and use it to promote root growth when planting in my garden.

Bruce - NH 5: There has been some evidence to indicate that each orchid is dependent not only on the a certain species of fungus, but on the particular strain of that species in its soil. The fungus takes up residence in the roots of the plant, and theoretically at least, you should be able to transplant native orchids with no problem. The major drawback is that the roots are long and extremely brittle,
and if any of the roots are broken in the process, the plant dies. It is virtually impossible to move the plant without breaking the roots. Hence successful transplanting is almost impossible.

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