Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Showy Lady's-slipper - Cypripedium reginae   Walter
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Section 5 » Order Orchidales » Family Orchidaceae
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AuthorWalter
DistributionThe NC NHP's State Status of W4 suggests that it might not be native in NC. There is one specimen at NCU, from Jackson County under rhododendrons, considered by them as an "implausible habitat". A second record is from Macon County (PLANTS database), but the habitat is unknown. However, one of the website editors (Sorrie) has seen Cypripedium reginae in MA on a couple of steep montane slopes (with hemlocks) where slumping has opened the canopy and exposed clayey soil. It is possible that the NC populations may have come from a similar habitat and should be considered native until determined otherwise. Though Weakley (2018) states that "The native occurrence of this species in NC is questionable", owing to an "implausible habitat", and also that "Other rumors of occurrence in NC have not been substantiated", his range map shows "H" (historical) for the mountains rather than a symbol for not native or uncertain nativity. At any rate, the two records of specimens are from the southern mountains, though they were from decades ago.

As expected, this is a Northern species, ranging widely across central and eastern Canada, south to NY and IA, and southward mainly in mountains. In the Appalachians, it ranges south to southwestern VA, northeastern TN, and the Ozarks of MO and AR. The NC locations are disjunct over 100 miles to the south.
AbundanceOf historical occurrence, with records many decades old. Known for certain in NC from just two collections. Obviously, owing to concerns about the acidic habitats, these could have been planted, though one might question why it would be planted under rhododendrons instead of some other places such as roadsides or meadows. The NC NHP gives it a State Rank of SNA (State Not Applicable for conservation), meaning that based on the W4 status, it is considered Rare but Possibly Not Native. The website editors believe that the records are plausibly native and suggest a state rank of [SH] = Historical.
HabitatOver its range this is one of the few orchid species found primarily over high pH soils; most or nearly all others favor acidic soils. Habitats are mostly in damp ground, such as in fens, seepage areas, swamps, and moist spots in forests. RAB (1968) gives its NC habitats as "Swamps and mossy, wooded slopes" without mention of soil pH.
PhenologyBlooms mainly in May in the southern part of the range; fruits in June and July.
IdentificationThis is arguably the most beautiful wildflower in the eastern US and Canada. It is a large orchid, growing to about 2-2.5 feet tall, with 3-8 large and erect to spreading leaves along the stem. The single flower, at times two flowers, is about 3-4 inches across and is strikingly white (sepals and petals), with broad and widely elliptical and rounded petals over a large pouch-like or slipper-like lip, which is rose-pink. As the flowers are so striking and can be seen from long distances, it is no surprise that the plants are highly prized by poachers taking them from the wild for planting in gardens and for other reasons. It cannot be confused with any other species when in flower.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Queen Lady's-slipper, Pink-and-white Lady's-slipper
State Rank[SH]
Global RankG4G5
State StatusW4 [SR]
US Status
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