Yellow Lady’s Slipper

Yellow Lady's Slipper

Yellow Lady’s Slipper © 2013 Bo Mackison

This June the Yellow Lady’s Slippers were profusely decorating the woodlands of Door County. Considering how picky and complicated their life cycle is, it’s almost amazing they grow at all.

All Lady’s Slippers grow in acidic soil which must have a certain underground fungus. The seeds of these plants are about the size of a dust speck and have absolutely no nutrients. Their “fungus buddy” attacks and eats the outer coating of the tiny seeds and allow the inner cells to absorb nutrients from the fungus and then germinate. This process can take several years. After the slipper finally germinates, it can take up to 15 years for the plant to mature enough to flower.

And it doesn’t get any easier after it flowers. Its pollination is equally complicated, requiring a bee to enter the pouchy flower. Once inside, the bee will often get trapped and either dies or has to chew its way out. The bees that manage to escape this demanding mistress then carry pollen to other blossoms, but even after all this trouble, only a small percentage are actually pollinated.

Guessing the only reason these ladies survive is due to their long lives – each plant can live for 100 years, providing they are not lunch for one of the many Door County deer. Once a flower actually is pollinated it is very prolific though, and can produce more than 60,000 seeds.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. A wonderful photo and a very informative post!

  2. rlovison says:

    Beautiful image Bo and thanks for the informative and fascinating background on the flower. Was that taken with your new 50mm macro?

    Have you ever heard of a computer program called Creatures? You probably would have loved it as it was an artificial simulation of life with various plant life and cute animal life as well. The simulation is no longer supported though there still is a huge following. In the past I maintained a webpage on the Linux version… I believe it is still being mirrored somewhere if you are interested. Just do a Google search for “sylv’s artificial life for linux”.

  3. Wicked looking and very interesting. Can live to 100 years? Whoa! I really, really like this photo of the Yellow Lady’s Slipper… great capture! 🙂

  4. Chris Osborne says:

    You know, I like coming her for the plant education now too. It’s about as good as the photographs.

  5. Those are such oddly beautiful flowers:)

  6. HeyJules says:

    Gosh I wish I could find some of those around here! What a beautiful flower.

  7. Beautiful! It looks identical to the white ones we have here except for the main body color. I also appreciate the information about them!

  8. jeanabaena says:

    beautiful specimen 😀

  9. ooo…can i add this one to the list?

  10. outstanding ladyslipper photo! WOW

  11. Gandalf says:

    After trillium, lady slippers are at the top of my fave of faves. Beautiful shots.

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