In 1902, the showy lady’s slipper, also called the pink and white lady’s slipper, became Minnesota’s state flower. Showy lady’s slippers have been protected in Minnesota since 1925, making it illegal to pick, uproot, or unearth these special symbols of our state.
Lady’s slipper orchids get their name from the pronounced pouch—called a slipper—that appears when the flowers bloom. Showy lady’s slippers have white petals on top of a brightly colored and somewhat streaked pink “slipper.” They take four to 16 years to produce their first bloom, with blooms typically occurring in late June–early July. Individual plants can live up to 50 years and can grow to be 4 feet tall!
The showy lady’s slipper is one of 43 orchid species found in Minnesota. Though rare, it can be found in tamarack and spruce bogs, swamps, wet meadows, wet prairies, and cool, damp woods, giving it a rather large range across the state. Unfortunately, population numbers are down, due in large part to wetland draining, road construction, tree cuttings, roadside herbicide use, and illegal picking/uprooting. Orchids are delicate plants, and the best way to protect them is to protect and preserve their natural habitat.
If you’re wanting to get a look at these magical plants, take a drive along the Lady’s Slipper Scenic Byway between Cass Lake and Blackduck, Minnesota in late June to early July—just remember to respect and protect these flowers as you go, being careful not to disturb them.