This is a large family composed of herbaceous perennials with tuberoid roots or corms. The perianth is composed of six divisions, the three outer being sepals (two of which are often united) and the three inner ones petals, the lower one of which, termed the lip, differs in form from the others.
Yellow Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium Parvi-Florum) has usually one, but sometimes three flowers at the summit of a leafy stem 7 to 20 in. high. The inflated lip is bright yellow, slipper-shaped and with a rounded open orifice near the base. The two lateral petals are brownish; exceedingly twisted. The broad, bright green leaves are very prominently ribbed lengthwise, pointed and alternately sheathing the stem. This is one of the northerly species, being found along the northern border of the United States and southern Canada. It grows in colonies and flowers from May to July, in,rich woods or bogs.
Yellow Lady's Slipper. Cypripedium parviflorum.
Large Yellow Lady's Slipper (C. P. Pubescens) is a form of the last, averaging larger in all its parts. It is found in the same range.
Ram's- Head Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium Arietinum) is not as handsome as the other members of this genus, but it is the most rare of the Lady's Slippers and, on that account, is very highly prized. The three sepals are separate, the upper one being ovate and pointed; while the lateral ones are lanceolate, brownish-purple-and very similar to the lateral petals; the swollen lip is small, little more than half an inch in length; white, with crimson veinings. The three or four leaves are elliptical and nearly smooth. The stem is from 6 to 12 inches in height. This species is very locally distributed in swamps from Me. to Manitoba, southwards to Mass. and N. Y.
Showy Lady's Slipper. Cypripedium hirsutum.
Showy Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium Hirsutum) is a magnificent orchid, usually regarded as the most beautiful of the genus. It is of imposing dimensions and has large fragrant flowers. The leaves are very large, closely crowded along the stem and very deeply ribbed, giving the plant, disregarding the flower, an appearance very much like the beautiful foliage of the common False Hellebore. While this species is not rare, it is quite locally distributed and it is always with a feeling of exultation that we discover a new colony.
The inflated flower lip is large and balloon-like, about 2 in. in length; white, with crimson-magenta blotches and streaks on the front edge; the sepals are round-ovate and the petals oblong, both pointed and both greenish-white in color. The leafy stem, that bears at its summit the solitary blossom, is from 1 to 2 feet in height. Found locally from Newfoundland to Minn, and southwards to Ga. and Mo. flowering in rich woods during June and July.
Cypripedium passerinum is a smaller species with a pale magenta lip, spotted with deep magenta at the base within; the upper sepal is yellowish and nearly round. The stem is covered with soft hairs; it is about eight inches in height. The elliptic-lanceolate leaves are sharply pointed. This species may be found in rich woods from Mich, and Ontario, westwards.