The Moccasin Flower
No other orchid is as familiar to New Englanders as our beloved pink lady’s slipper. It may seem like vanilla ice-cream to us, but it is no way ordinary.
The specific epithet “acaule” means stemless, which confuses a lot of people. It has no true stem, only 2 basal leaves and a pedicel with its flower growing out of the base. It is different than all of the other Cypripediums in this regard, and is classified under its own section in the genus.
It ranges frpm Newfoundland to west of Hudson Bay, and south thrsoughout the Appalacians, but is most abundant right here where we live. If you want to see a glorious display of acaules, a ride up the eastern end of the Kancamagus highway, and the Bear Notch road the second week of June will give you overload! You will see great washes of them on both sides of the road.
Its color ranges from deep rose to pure white, and the flower height from dwarfs about 4 inches high to giants up to your knees. Large clumps can be found where it has been long-time established and undisturbed. It grows in a very great variety of acidic habitats in our area, but is paradoxically remarkably difficult to cultivate. Transplants invariabily die within 3 years.
You never see this gem at an orchid show, except the real show that takes place each June. I never tire of their beauty.
– John A. Mattor