There was an Indian village in the distance, a rising dune to the east, and beyond lay Lake Michigan. Between the low dune and the village on higher ground lay the broad expanse of wet prairie which once was so much a part of the landscape around the lake. The wet prairie in the days of the Indians was splendid in spring and summer with brilliant flowers, and in May there came the time of white lady's slippers. They were everywhere on that Calumet prairie, everywhere for miles, it seemed; their stiff green stalks with the closely-held hairy leaves bore one or two flowers on each; there were millions of them.
Cypripedium candidum Muhl.
May - June Swamps, prairies,. along railroad tracks.
The white lady's slipper has a small, white, pouch-like flower with green-purple sepals and petals extending outward and over it. Inside the white pouch are purple speckles, and the interior mechanism, like those of the other lady's slippers, admits only certain tiny green bees which for ages have fertilized American lady's slippers. Stiff and exquisite on the old prairie, the white lady's slippers blossomed and were gone. And were gone. . . . not for the summer, but almost for good.
Where lady's slippers grew for miles on the Calumet prairie there now are steel mills and factories, dirty streets and dirty houses, and air thick with smoke and fumes. It is far from the sweet peace of the wet prairie where white orchids bloomed. But this species apparently has suffered less extermination than the other lady's slippers in Illinois, for there still are many places where the conditions are right, often along railroad embankments and ditches, where a few white lady's slippers still blossom as part of the picture of late spring.