Yellow Lady's Slipper

Yellow Lay's Slipper ~ Cypripedium calceolus var. parviflorum
I love lady's slippers. I suppose that's part of being Minnesotan, since the Showy Lady's Slipper is that state flower. My dad grew up with the Showy Lady's Slippers near his home, while Mom grew up with the Yellow (and one spring, Small Whites). All five or six species (depending on your definition of species) are beautiful, elegant plants, and hardly common.

The Yellow Lady's Slipper is where the haziness in species names and numbers comes in, with much debate over the flower. Is it the same species as the European flower, Cypripedium calceolus? Or is the American plant a different species in its own right, earning the name Cypripedium parviflorum? And then are all the yellow lady's slippers in the US the same plant with some wild variation in size, or are there actually two subspecies (in Minnesota, anyway), a large-flowered variation (Cypripedium calceolus var. pubescens or Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens, depending on whether you go by the European or American name) and a small-flowered variation (Cypripedium calceolus var. parviflorum or Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin)?

It makes things a little complicated when you have to put an exact name to the flower.

Orchids of Minnesota by Welby R. Smith of the MN Department of Natural Resources (U of MN Press, 1993) goes by C. calceolus, so that's what I go by. But while he separates the two variations as differing subspecies, even he states the differences between var. pubescens and var. parviflorum are hazy at best, since they also hybridize.

Regardless of ethnicity and size, it's still a favorite. And in a drawing, it's mighty hard to tell whether it's large or small, American or European.

Photos by Rachael Koppendrayer, May 26, 2017