Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Orchid Sleuth

Years ago I read the Orchid Thief. I thought of it as I went on my search for the Lady's Slipper. I heard it to be out on the west side of the Blue trail. Had I overshot the round-a-bout location Cassie the ranger detailed for me on the map? Yes, I had gone too far. Now backtracking, looking harder. This is not something easy to spot. Just one flower, could be anywhere on the trail. Could be gone, too. I've never sought out an orchid before and had made no attempt at research.

There are two things I recall from the Orchid Thief. One is the weird photo of the author, Susan Orleans, on the back flap, and the other is that some orchids grow near tree trunks, or even on them. I remember that as I spot these particular leaves, the kind of which I had just noticed another pair just a few feet back. I thought, hmm, a set of leaves with no where to go. A set of leaves that seems to be missing something. And now a pair sitting at the base of an oak tree. This must be the spot, but did I miss the bloom? No way...

There, beneath the canopy of Mountain Laurel, what appears to be growing out of oak leaves littering the rock face, a spot of sunlight on the Lady's Slipper!

Cypripedium acaule, family of Orchidaceae. Lives off highly acid substrates, dry or wet. There was another about ten feet behind this one, and many bare sets of leaves about. I only saw the two blooms however. All these photos are of the same bloom.

My wife's mom was licensed to grow and sell native orchids in the state of Minnesota. She would have liked this one; her soil was sweet and pink slippers were difficult.

Looks less like a slipper to me, more like a floating maiden with arms out.


  1. Beautiful!

    BTW. . . it's spelled with a "y". . . ;)

  2. But I like a plural with a singular's possessive.

    yes, correctamundo.



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