Lady-Slipper Seed Pods

– Posted in: Native/Invasive

Remember this?

Cypripedium acaule, commonly known as Pink Lady-slipper

Cypripedium acaule, commonly known as Pink Lady-slipper

Now it looks like this:
Seed pods of pink lady-slipper, Cypripedium acaule

Seed pods of pink lady-slipper, Cypripedium acaule

I discovered these while on my witch hazel walk.

Lady Slipper Seed Germination

As related by William Cullina in The New England Wild Flower Society Guide to Growing and Propagating Wildflowers (affiliate link):

  • “The typical lady-slipper seedpod contains between 10,000 and 20,00 seeds!”
  • The reason they have so many seeds is because the seeds lack endosperm
  • Without endosperm, the seeds are very light and are spread by the wind
  • “Without endosperm, orchid seeds cannot germinate unless they become infected by certain soil fungi [Rhizoctonia mycorrhizae], which the seedlings partially digest to obtain the sugars and nutrients necessary for growth.”
  • “Once a seedling has chlorophyll-containing leaves and a few roots, it . . . becomes less and less dependent on the fungus for survival.”
  • “At least some species of Rhizoctonia are pathogenic or disease-causing when they infect nonorchidaceous species, such as members of the Mustard family.”

Cullina states

In my experience, adequate sunlight; moisture; and a well-aerated, good organic soil with adequate fertility is all adult lady-slippers need to grow well. In fact, even small seedlings that we have received in sterile bags (growing without mycorrhizae) grow on very well in a sterile, hydroponic mix. It seems clear that once the seedlings have passed out of the critical germination stage, they can grow well in cultivated conditions without mycorrhizae.

However, Cullina says that the pink lady-slipper I have does “not adapt well to cultivation.” I plan to leave them right where they are, and I’m not messing with the seed pods. But I learned a few things tonight and thought I’d share them with you.

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.

What differentiates a bulb from a perennial plant is that the nourishment for the flower is stored within the bulb itself.…There is something miraculous about the way that a little grenade of dried up tissue can explode into a complete flower.

~Monty Don in The Complete Gardener pp. 142

Comments on this entry are closed.

Stephen Davis January 5, 2013, 4:41 pm

Hi:I was interested in buying seeds of your ladyslipper flowers.I live up in Prince George BC,and have property with them on it.purple and white one’s.I thought if they can grow there,then other one’s will to.I hope you could sell some other seeds,that I may try and keep in touch with you.Thank You.

Kathy Purdy January 5, 2013, 4:58 pm

Sorry, I am not a lady-slipper nursery. I don’t collect lady-slipper seeds, and since these are the only plants I have ever found on my property, I don’t plan to start collecting them.

Julie March 20, 2011, 3:44 pm

Several years ago on mothers day, I took my mother for a walk through the woods looking for Lady Slippers. She had been telling me stories of her childhood, when lady slippers were very common in the woods. That day we found a whole patch of them! What a wonderful mothers day that was, we talk about it often! And since that day we have only found 1 or 2 even though we have searched every year since! I would love to buy some plants or seed if I could find them!

brad July 12, 2011, 8:45 pm

Go to…….then click on the “Orchids for sale link”

Mary Ann The Orchid Care Zone Publisher October 5, 2010, 3:19 pm

Lady slippers are a terrific discovery. Thank you for sharing what you learned about the seeds. It’s definitely a good move to leave them where they are! (Even though it would be awesome to just scoop them up and take them home, you’ve done well resisting the temptation.) In fact, I just did a recent blog post about propagating other types of orchids.

Pat Amero July 4, 2010, 11:43 pm

For anyone considering trying to grow their own Pink Lady Slippers from seed, check out , a site I happened to find when doing research for my own northern garden. This information brings home just how delicate our ecosystem is and why we don’t see these flowers everywhere. I feel guilty now for the wild flowers I used to pick for my Mom when I was a young girl. I really had no idea of the damage I was doing. I now encourage kids to draw me a picture or describe to me what they’ve encountered, and leave the flowers for everyone to enjoy. NOTE: For those like me who think they need to write this site down long-hand, simply highlight it and then right click on it, then use the cut option. When you need to recall it, simpy right click again and use paste or copy option. Aren’t computers wonderful? I hope this was helpful for someone out there, and best of luck growing your own Pink Lady Slippers.**Pat Amero- Yukon, Canada

kim hewitt December 15, 2012, 1:49 pm

Hi my name Is Kim and I’m looking for a lady named Pat Amero. The last time I saw her was in Houston BC and months after that she sold her house and was moving to the yukon. I know this is a long shot but after 11 years I would like to find her and reconnect. She is originally from NS and I stayed with her while I did the Katimavik program in BC. I worked at the library with her….would you be her? I think her husbands name was Larry. I’d appriciae a reply, Thanks

Roger McCall April 27, 2010, 8:03 pm

Does anybody know where I can buy lady slipper flowers? Yellow or pink or both.
Thanks, Roger

eliz November 3, 2009, 11:55 pm

I forgot my lady slipper dreams–time to start them up again!

commonweeder November 1, 2009, 5:32 pm

My friend kathy Puckett is a genius with plants and has added several lady slippers to her garden. It doesn’t hurt that she has a neighbor who grows these commercially.
.-= commonweeder´s last blog ..November Muse Day 2009 =-.

Neil Moran October 31, 2009, 7:07 am

I didn’t find any lady slippers on my walk yesterday in the rain! I would like to try planting them. I’ve got a crew of students in a vocational education program (greenhouse) who could do the fussing that these seeds probably need to germinate. Does anyone have any seed we can try? We’re a nonprofit organization.

Fig Tree October 30, 2009, 2:41 pm

My grandmother used to have yellow lady slippers in her garden in Mass.- it was always my favorite every year!

Neil Moran October 30, 2009, 8:54 am

It is raining here today, but I’m still going out to a spot where I know there are Lady’s Slippers and see if I can find seed. Thanks for the information and pics, Kathy.

Randy October 29, 2009, 10:47 pm

I’d heard that growing ladies slippers from seed was not an easy thing to do. I was on a butterfly club trip in the NCmtns during May several years back and we were lead to see three different wild species of ladies slippers in full bloom!
.-= Randy´s last blog ..Spiced Pears and Pomegranate =-.

Ellen Sousa October 29, 2009, 4:26 pm

Such a thrill to find Lady Slippers! Consider yourself blessed when they grow without an invitation…they are definitely particular about where they grow and are very difficult to transplant! They do prefer the acidic soil that is typical of New England…I often see them growing near white pines in areas that have been previously disturbed but are now ‘left to nature’.

Cool Garden Things October 29, 2009, 2:03 pm

I must disagree about the nature and her color harmonies…I have yet to see a color combo that I see in nature that is not devine…but of course I love browns and yellows and grays…and purple…
I always feel the trick is to figure out how she does it just right-because if I tried that color combo it would not work.
.-= Cool Garden Things´s last blog ..Garden Note to Self: =-.

Helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence October 29, 2009, 1:26 pm

I love these kind of discovering during walks. H.
.-= Helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence´s last blog ..The Book of Six © Six Facts About Honey Bees in General =-.

Carol, May Dreams Gardens October 26, 2009, 8:24 pm

It seems some seeds are better left alone. That was great information!
.-= Carol, May Dreams Gardens´s last blog ..A Gardeners’ Guide to "Quantities" =-.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter October 26, 2009, 4:28 pm

I was jealous then, I’m still jealous now. They are so wonderful.
.-= Mr. McGregor’s Daughter´s last blog ..Book Review: What’s Wrong With My Plant? =-.

Cindy, MCOK October 26, 2009, 12:19 pm

Oh, how I’d love to grow those delicate beauties! Since I can’t, I’ll enjoy them through your posts.

Dee/reddirtramblings October 26, 2009, 10:22 am

I am always amazed during my fall nature walks. Things change so dramatically. I love your lady slippers.~~Dee