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Exploring the Enigmatic Lady Slippers: Endangered Orchids in Highlands, NC

Updated: Apr 16, 2023

Pink Lady Slipper is a type of endangered orchid.
Pink Lady Slipper is a type of endangered orchid.

Before we purchased the High Ridge Haven property, we located one Lady Slipper, a type of orchid that grows in the North Carolina mountains. It was never to be found again until now. Here in the middle of April, while walking with a dear neighbor here on the ridge, she spotted them with her walking stick as we sauntered this property trail called, the Turkey Trot Trail. And we've found many, can you? Book your next vacation directly with us.

Pink lady's slipper, Cypripedium acaule (Pronounced: sip-rih-PEE-dee-um a-KAW-lee), is one of many native orchid species in North Carolina. Their distribution includes much of the northeastern United States extending up into Canada.

Endangered: Many have said that they are endangered, in part, because people will dig them up right off your property (Note: It is prohibited to harvest Lady Slippers). They grow in such a narrow range of soil and climate conditions, it makes them very vulnerable to habitat destruction and climate change as well as over-picking. And those who dig them up will find transplanting extremely difficult owed to the specific conditions needed. Less than 5% will be successful.

How Do They Look?: They typically pop up through the ground looking like a hosta or a tulip. They have two leaves from which a single stalk will emerge with typically, a pink bloom. Lady Slippers come in three different color arrangements, pink & white, yellow, and the very rare, much less common plain white. Pink is the most common color, but the legend on the ridge at High Ridge Haven is we may have some yellow lady slippers. All white flowers are the rarest.

A stalk with flower will emerge between the two leaves.
A stalk with flower will emerge between the two leaves.

If you are a guest at High Ridge Haven, we encourage you to share your photos with us.

Finding Them at High Ridge Haven: It's early in the growing season, but we have so far seen Lady Slippers poking up through the ground on the Turkey Trot Trail and some locations along the drive.

Lady Slipper will flower April through June, depending on their location.

The Process of Pollination: As if the life of a Lady Slipper isn't already difficult how pollination occurs is another example for what makes these plants in the landscape so special. The flower has fused petals that form a hollow pouch. The color and fragrance lure bees inside the center of the pouch. The bees get trapped and can't exit out the way they came. So they continue the length of the flower and exit through holes at the top of the pouch. As they crawl through the pouch, they brush against the female stigma and collect any pollen the bee happens to be carrying. As the bee exits the flower, the anther (the flower's male part) deposits pollen onto the bee’s back. For pollination to occur the bee must visit at least a couple lady’s slipper flowers. However, Lady Slippers have no nectar as a "reward" to bees, so they stop coming, which reduces the pollination rate of Lady Slippers.

Stones have been placed around a few Lady Slippers to bring attention to them and to avoide the get trampled.

Something is always in bloom at High Ridge Haven. If you want to see the other spectacular plants in bloom like native azaleas, rhododendron or hydrangea, book your next vacation at our private retreat an easy drive to Cashiers (4 mi.) and Highlands (10 mi.) and close to numerous waterfalls and hiking trails.


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