Showy lady's slipper is the Queen Orchid of America. Here is an orchid blossom as exciting to see as one from the southern jungles. Here is crisp, waxen perfection, a minimum of leaves placed exactly right for proper symmetry. Alternately they clasp the furry stem - broadly oval, bright green leaves with parallel veins. From the protection of the topmost clasping leaf there is a white bud which is shaped much like a dove's egg. The bud grows, and swells, and in silent drama opens to become a pouched white flower of great magnificence. Here is a slipper-like pouch marked with a splash of vivid purple-pink with white lines. Above are two spreading white petals and one large, broad petal curved above. A slight fragrance comes from the center of the flower. The sun gleams on the petals; they actually sparkle with tiny individual lights.
Cypripedium reginae Walt.
June Swamps, bogs.
A small bee a fourth of an inch long fertilizes the orchid; other insects usually fail to get into the complex flower, are caught between the sticky anthers and are held there until they die. The. bee knows the way in. It enters the opening in the front of the pouch and finds itself inside and heading up into the back part of the flower. Nectar clings to tiny hairs leading along converging purple lines. Then the bee finds itself near a convenient exit at the back of the flower, and. in pushing through, brushes against sticky pollen grains which cling to the bee's body. Then it goes to another orchid where the pollen reaches the waiting pistil. Ultimately, the seeds form and are dispersed to create other orchids in other Junes.