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.