I saw seventeen pink lady’s slippers!

by Caroline Brown

This weekend, Curt and I went for a walk on a nature trail near our house. On the way back, I saw real-live a pink lady's slipper (Cypripedium acuale). This may not seem like a big deal but I was excited because  it's a rare native plant.

A few feet away from the first one I saw three more! So I resolved to go back with my camera and take some photos of it so I could blog about it.

I'm working on a separate post (with more photos) that will explain why it's rare. But in the meantime, on with the story…..

I first heard of the pink lady's slipper in the master gardener's lecture on native plants. Then a few weeks ago, I was working on my first article for the Kent County Daily Times–I reprinted parts of it here. The editor asked me to write about the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society, which at the time was preparing for its annual Wild Plant Sale.

I intervewed the director of the Society and she sent me a few photos for possible publication. One of the pics was of a pink lady's slipper, which the director had mentioned in passing as an example of a very rare North American native. I sent the three photos to my editor and asked him to choose one and tell me, and I would write a caption for it.

Well the editor was busy and so he picked the one he liked–the photo of the lady's slipper–and wrote the caption himself. The caption he wrote was something to the effect of: The rare pink lady's slipper will be available at the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society's annual plant sale.

Auggghhhhh! Stop the presses, not true, not true. But it was too late, the article was published and the director said she had quite a few calls from curious potential buyers. I got the paper to print a retraction/apology but it was quite the inauspicious beginning to my career as a gardening writer.

So anyway, when I saw the flower on our hike, I almost felt like I should kneel before it. When we went back with the camera a couple of days later and looked around more carefully, we actually counted 17 of them!

I couldn't believe it–17 pink lady's slippers. I can't explain why it made so happy (as Curt pointed out, it's not like it's even that beautiful.) It simply made me feel good to know that a rare native species can exist in spite of the human desire to clear cut forests and fields and build Wal-Marts and tract housing. It made me hopeful to see that 17 little rare wildflowers had prevailed, at least for a season.

13 Responses to “I saw seventeen pink lady’s slippers!”

  1. I live in Massachusetts, 2/3rd acre of property, mostly wooded. As I walked in the wooded back yard, I came across a few of these and later found about 20. scattered around. I have seen these characterized as endangered. Not sure about that since my last walk, but certainly unusual and beautiful in its own way. Nice photo. Thanks for caring about the local flora.

  2. Hi Ed, I would say they are endangered due to disappearing habitat. Since they’re so fussy and need everything to be “just so,” it’s important to keep their habitats intact. And here in New England, development is at full force. You’re lucky to have so many in your back yard, be a good steward to them! Thanks for visiting.

  3. This is exciting to hear. i counted 13 in a hundred square feet in my yard as well… i havn’t looked through the rest of the property for them. I’m glad they exist elsewhere in such numbers.


  4. I also live in R.I. and my children found a dozen in our
    backyard they are a great surprise and beautiful!
    We also felt the same as you when we discovered them
    in our wooded backyard.

  5. What a great find you had (last year!) I saw my first one hear in NW-PA in the National Forest. About 20 yards away I found another one, but that was all! In my photography portfolio there should be the photo I took of it.

  6. i went out today for a hike where i always went when i was a kid there are lots of lady slippers.. i was excited to so i took pics close up too …..They are beautiful and there were lots….

    New Brunswick

  7. Dear Croline:
    I understand the emotion you felt. I saw a clump od 11 white lady’s slippers, what look to be a form of pink lady’s slippers. There were southwestern New Brunswick during the last week of June. I had seen a pink slipper as a child and have looked for other since, so it was a very exciting day for me.

  8. I live in Cumberla RI and i walk my dog in the woods near my house all the time. There is about 400 arcres of woods ad so far on my walks i have counted about 50 of these flowers. they are wonderfully beautiful

  9. I was walking on the bike path that goes through Slater park in Pawtucket RI and goes into East Providence RI, my husband son and I went off the path to look at a little cross in the ground for a kitten and then went toward the water to look at swans(about a dozen of them) and all of a sudden my husband said look at that, I turned and saw it a Pink Lady’s Slipper, I looked around and did not see another one. That was the first time I had seen one since I was about ten years old, at Camp Hoffman in N. Kingstown RI, there were probably about a dozen of them and we were told never to pick them because they are so rare. See this one brought back good memories.

  10. Good Day all

    I live near fredericton NB and last spring I found some pink ones as well as a number of white ones.

    When I lived in Lanark Ontario I had some yellow ones growing at the base of some birch trees.

    If anyone really wants a show you should Check out the Purdon Conservation area near Lanark Ontario. The have 16000 lady slippers each spring.


    have a great day


  11. Listen, plant lovers I saw one and got really excited on a a trail on our property. Later that day I was out in the woods and saw at least 40, maybe more. Wahoo. I called my artist friends and they took lots of pix. They are a very pale pink, lighter than the author’s photo. I am in GA. I remember rarely seeing the yellow ones in MN in the 1950’s. I think they are fnicky and maybe even a bit shy. I wonder what they do in the off years. Anyway, what a treat to see them. As I studied them I realized each one was different and had its own personality and schedule. Maybe with less construction they will thrive again.

  12. I currently have 16 pink lady slippers growing in my yard


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