Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Pink Lady's-slipper - Cypripedium acaule   Aiton
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Section 5 » Order Orchidales » Family Orchidaceae
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AuthorAiton
DistributionA strange state range: present throughout the Mountains, western Piedmont, northeastern Piedmont, and the northern two-thirds of the Coastal Plain. Scarce and of spotty occurrence in the central Piedmont and the southern Coastal Plain (including the Sandhills). Scarcity in a narrow NNE-SSW band through the east-central Piedmont is incomprehensible (but a real gap)! Its scarcity in the southeastern part of the state is more understandable, as it is a Northern species nearing the edge of the range there.

Present in a large area from Canada south to central GA and central AL; absent from FL, MS, AR, MO, and IA.
AbundanceFairly common to common in the Mountains and western half of the Piedmont, as well as in the northeastern Piedmont south to Orange and Wake counties. Also, fairly common to frequent in the northern and central Coastal Plain; rare to uncommon in parts of the central and southeastern Piedmont, and the southern Coastal Plain (where mainly absent). This is one of the several most common orchids in the state, along with Cranefly Orchid (Tipularia discolor) and Downy Rattlesnake-plantain (Goodyera pubescens).
HabitatThis is one of the relatively few orchids that is present (as well as numerous) in upland pine forests, its most favored habitat (except rare to absent in Longleaf Pine [Pinus palustris] forests). It also can be found in other dry to mesic acidic forest types, such as mixed-pine hardwoods and maritime evergreen forest, but it is less numerous under a solid canopy of hardwoods. It may at times be found in bogs and a few Sandhills populations inhabit moist margins of maple-gum swamps.
PhenologyBlooms from April to June, and fruits mainly in July and August.
IdentificationThis herbaceous species needs little introduction, even if it is scarce to absent in parts of the state. It has a pair of large, very broad, elliptical basal leaves that may lie nearly flat on the ground or may angle somewhat upward. They are quite tomentose, strongly ribbed (not in a single plane), and are about 5 inches long; it is difficult to overlook these basal leaves when you are close to the plant. The flowering scape averages about 10-15 inches tall, with a single very large flower atop the stem. Of course, it has the familiar large pink to rose-colored sac (lip) that is about 2 inches long and close to 1 inch wide. The sepals and petals are hardly noticeable, or are not needed for identification. Though there are more spectacular wildflowers in the state, within its often rather "sterile" habitats for wildflowers (such as upland pine stands) this species is quite striking and is a layman favorite.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Moccasin-flower is a popular name, though Cypripedium species are known as "lady's-slipper", and thus this is only a second-best name.
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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