Friday, August 13, 2010

Brownie Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium fasciculatum)

The Brownie Lady's Slipper, also known as the Clustered Lady's Slipper, is the smallest, the rarest and the least showy of our native Lady's Slippers.  It is very much a western plant, found in only eight states, Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado and only in the northernmost parts of Utah, Colorado and California.

The plant grows to about 20 cm tall and both leaves and stems are covered with short hairs.  There are two rather large leaves, about 12 cm long, near the middle of the stem.  The flowers, one to four in number (usually three on the plants we've seen), are held in a tight cluster on a stem that curls over under the weight of the flowers.

Cypripedium fasciculatum fma. purpureum

The individual flowers are about 2 cm in size and vary in color from green to a very dark brownish-purple, sometimes described as mahogany.  The green and purple flowers are considered separate forms by some, but the flowers cover a spectrum of color between these two extremes and are almost always found growing together..

The plant grows in dry woodlands and is often hard to spot among the surrounding plants, even when in flower, which may also be part of the reason why it is considered to be rare.  It blooms in the late spring, in our area about the same time as the Oregon Anemone and the Arrowleaf Balsamroot.


  1. Very cool! I was just reading about these in Luer's
    Native Orchids of the United States and Canada, which my wife had just gotten me for my birthday.

    The Florida Native Orchid Blog

  2. They are even more wonderful in situ, Prem. We know of one location which is not very well protected, but which we watch as carefully as we can.