Minnesota State Flower - Pink and White Lady's Slipper

While Minnesota isn’t exactly a tropical plant paradise, 43 orchid species call the state home, according to the Orchid Society of Minnesota. A type of wild orchid called the pink and white lady’s slipper, or showy lady’s slipper, is Minnesota’s state flower. What sets these orchids apart from other, more familiar species is the pouch-like lip, which aids in trapping insect pollinators within the flower. To escape, the insect must pass through various parts of the flower, pollinating it along the way.

Facts

The brightly-colored pink and white lady's slipper thrives in Minnesota’s damp areas such as swamps and wet woods. It is slow to mature, not flowering until it reaches 16 years of age, and lives about 50 years. Reaching an eventual height of 2 feet, the pink and white lady’s slipper blooms in June and July in Minnesota. Because the pink and white lady’s slipper requires vernalization -- a period of cold temperatures -- it is not suited to growing in regions with mild winters.

Considerations

Although you are welcome to view the pink and white lady’s slippers growing in Minnesota public bogs, swamps and forests, it is against state law to dig them up, pick the flowers or otherwise disturb the plants without a permit. It is also against state statutes to sell pink and white lady’s slipper anywhere in the state without a state permit. Use caution when handling the plant as the leaves and stalk contain hairs that may cause dermatitis in sensitive individuals.

History

In February of 1893, the state of Minnesota chose Cypripedium calceolus, or moccasin flower, as their state flower. A women’s group, Saint Anthony Study Circle, brought it to the public’s attention that this plant didn’t grow in Minnesota. The ensuing bad press in the “Minneapolis Tribune” prompted swift action from the Minnesota State Legislature, changing the species to the native Cypripedium reginae, the pink and white lady’s slipper.

Cultivation Notes

As is the case with all native plants and wildflowers, providing the pink and white lady’s slipper with an environment that mimics its natural habitat presents the ideal growing conditions. Although the plant requires lots of light, it should be protected from hot afternoon sun. The pink and white lady’s slipper will thrive in dappled shade, where the sunlight plays in and out of a tree’s foliage. The most important aspect of growing the pink and white lady’s slipper is the moisture content of the soil. It is very sensitive to even the slightest fluctuation, so keep the soil evenly moist at all times.

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