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Stemless lady’s slipper

When one thinks “orchids”, one usually imagines exotic flowers of great beauty but, unfortunately, generally beyond the reach of our pocket. Did you know that you could observe magnificent orchids in our own forests? Indeed, we are fortunate enough to have indigenous representatives of the Cypripedium genus in North America, the most abundant of these orchids being the stemless lady’s slipper. Its distribution range runs from the Arctic Circle to the Tropic of Cancer and it is widely distributed in Quebec.

It can be found in a range of environments, but generally prefers acid soil: sandy, peaty, or granitic. The stemless lady’s slipper has a single flower which can grow to a height of some 40 centimetres (about 16 in.). The flower, as is the case for all orchids, conducts the insect to the pollination stigma; the shape of the flower obliges the insect to enter at one side and to leave by the other. The lower part of the flower is shaped like a sac, easy to penetrate through the lengthwise slit, but where it is difficult to come out by the same path. This means the insect must leave by the top of the flower, and on its way it pollinates it. This is an ingenious process, the result of long evolution, but it is not the only reproductive means available to the plant. In fact, one of the major forms of propagation of this orchid is through its rhizomes (or underground stems).

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