It’s lady’s slipper time of year here. Hundreds along one trail nearby, and dozens or sometimes just a few along other local trails. All pink: Cypripedium acaule.
As I mentioned when posting about lady’s slippers two years ago, the U.S. Forest Service page on the species notes that “[i]n order to survive and reproduce, pink lady’s slipper interacts with a fungus in the soil from the Rhizoctonia genus. Generally, orchid seeds do not have food supplies inside them like most other kinds of seeds. Pink lady’s slipper seeds require threads of the fungus to break open the seed and attach them to it. The fungus will pass on food and nutrients to the pink lady’s slipper seed. When the lady’s slipper plant is older and producing most of its own nutrients, the fungus will extract nutrients from the orchid roots.”
And from Go Botany: “Pink lady’s-slipper is typically found on acidic soils. It is pollinated by bumblebees that enter the flower through a slit in the labellum, pass under the stigma that removes any pollinium (pollen sac) that may be present on the bee, and then under one of two anthers that attach a pollinium onto the bee.”
The lady’s slipper is a spring ephemeral, along with trilliums (various species), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), hepatica (mainly (Anemone americana here), trout lily (Erythronium americanum), twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla), Virginia bluebell (Mertensia virginica), spring beauty (Claytonia virginica), Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens), Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), bellworts (Uvularia sessilifolia ete al.), among others. These plants bloom briefly in spring, and then go dormant; often you’ll see no sign of them at all by summer.
“If today is not your day,
then be happy
for this day shall never return.
And if today is your day,
then be happy now
for this day shall never return.” — Kamand Kojouri
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Fascinating read… I had no idea their life is so dependent on fungi! Love the quote at the end, too. 🙂
My colleague here has been trying for years to relocate a small colony of trout lily, although I can not imagine why; they are not very impressive. When he takes a small bit of it, he also takes quite a bit of soil, but they really do not recover well. The best ones are in cans, but there is concern that they will not like to go into the ground. Although we can see how well the plants are doing, we can not see what the fungi are up to.