Mystery Flower Blooms for Bloom Day

– Posted in: Native/Invasive, What's up/blooming

Mystery Flower Up in the Woods

We have lived here for almost twenty years now, and yet almost every year I discover a new wildflower growing up there. I don’t know how much this is due to the maturing of the the woodlands, and how much is due to my making more of an effort to get up there during May, when all the spring ephemerals are blooming–and all the weeds are growing lustily in the cultivated gardens down by the house.

About a week ago I came across this plant, which I had never seen before:

May 9th. Do you know what this flower is?

May 9th. Do you know what this flower is?

A few days later I checked again, and it looked like this:
May 12th. Do you know what it is now?

May 12th. Do you know what it is now?

It seemed like it was taking its sweet time to open. I had a hunch about its identity at this point, but couldn’t confirm it. Wednesday and Thursday were both too busy to go up and look, so it wasn’t until early evening of the 15th, when I should have been writing my bloom day post, that I finally got to see this:
Cypripedium acaule, commonly known as Pink Ladyslipper

Cypripedium acaule, commonly known as Pink Ladyslipper

Yes! A ladyslipper! All my reference books say Cypripedium acaule is the most common ladyslipper in eastern woodlands, and they all agree that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to grow in cultivation. Some of the other species are easier to grow, and they are offered for sale by reputable growers–but they’re pricey. “My” ladyslipper grows in poor, acid soil, which is what we have. No surprises there. Since our land had been logged off and turned into pasture, and is now second (or possibly even third) growth forest, I never expected ladyslippers to return, especially since trilliums do not seem to be re-establishing themselves. (I have planted some, but none have shown up on their own.)

I’m just thrilled.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

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Donalyn May 25, 2009, 11:58 am

That is so cool – haven’t seen one in years!

Donalyn’s last blog post..It’s not just a 3-day weekend

commonweeder May 22, 2009, 3:24 pm

kathy, lucky you! At a recent plant sale there were lots of trillium and bloodroot – which I thought were difficult to transplant – but apparently this is a great spring for these wild flowers in our area – and at least some of us know how to transplant them safely.

commonweeder’s last blog post..A Cry for Help

Lynn May 21, 2009, 9:55 am

WOW! We’re thrilled for you. I’ve never seen one, but I’m sure out looking for stuff.

Lynn’s last blog post..officially my new favorite flower

Gloria May 18, 2009, 1:45 pm

What a beautiful plant.
The progression shots are great. Would you mind it I post a link to this post at Wildlife Gardeners Forum?

Gloria’s last blog post..MAY 15th 2009 Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Helen May 17, 2009, 5:15 pm

My, but these are beautiful plants. Just the structure of them alone is awe-inspiring.

Carol, May Dreams Gardens May 17, 2009, 5:14 pm

“Best bloom of bloom day”. We are all excited to see your mystery flower open up!

Carol, May Dreams Gardens’s last blog post..Have You Ever Hoed A Deck?

Alison Kerr May 17, 2009, 3:46 pm

Lovely photos. What an awesome flower. You have a really nice website too – great use of the Thesis theme.

jodi (bloomingwriter) May 17, 2009, 11:40 am

Yea for Lady’s slippers, Kathy! That’s just awesome. Interesting too, because ours are a couple weeks yet from blooming. I don’t have any in our garden, although I’ve contemplated it for a few years. I know a spot down in the woods adjacent the evil clearcut not far from us where they grow in profusion, and I could extricate a nice large chunk of ground with all the goodness in it, and bring it up here to put with the other woodland plants. Maybe. I keep saying that, but haven’t done so yet….;-)

jodi (bloomingwriter)’s last blog post..Aliens in the gardens

Daffodil Planter May 17, 2009, 9:58 am

What a touching vote of confidence in you, from Mother Nature.

Daffodil Planter’s last blog post..DVD Review: The Art and Practice of Gardening, with Penelope Hobhouse

Gail May 17, 2009, 7:47 am

Kathy, Wonderful news…it’s a fantastic find! …and Dee’s description is perfect. Earthy looking for sure! Maybe the conditions are right for other natives to return….I have noticed that where I remove the vincas, dogtooth violet has appeared.


Gail’s last blog post.."And now, here’s something we hope you’ll really like!" Bloom Day

Kathy Purdy May 17, 2009, 12:13 pm

The further up the hill we go, the less invasives there are. Up where the ladyslipper was found, there aren’t many invasives yet.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter May 17, 2009, 7:43 am

I’m thrilled for you! That is such an awesome find, kind of like an Howard Carter finding Tut’s tomb.

Mr. McGregor’s Daughter’s last blog post..May Bloom Day 2009

Dee/ May 16, 2009, 11:16 pm

What an exciting find for bloom day! I’ve never seen a photo of a lady slipper, but it is so, forgive me, earthy looking.~~Dee

Dee/’s last blog post..Troy-Bilt Trimmer, a Review

Kathy Purdy May 17, 2009, 12:16 pm

There are other species that are more garden-flower pretty, but they all have the same structure.

Kylee from Our Little Acre May 16, 2009, 10:27 pm

Now THAT is SUPER exciting!!!!!! I’d be screaming and jumping up and down with glee. We are going back to the woods tomorrow evening to see if we can find some Jack-in-the-Pulpits. I too have a mystery flower we found last week when at the woods. I’m waiting for a bloom so I might be able to identify it. Soon!

This is just sooooooo cool, Kathy!

Kathy Purdy May 17, 2009, 12:18 pm

Thanks, Kylee. You understand my excitement better than most of my family does. Jack in the pulpit and trillium both have 3-part leaves. You have to look at the vein patterns on the leaf to distinguish them–at least I do when there’s no bloom