Lady Slippers

Pink lady’s slipper orchids (Cypripedium acaule), May 14, 2012, Lexington, Massachusetts. There are lady’s slippers growing on public land all around Boston, blooming roughly from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day. Look for shady woodlands with acidic soils. Forests with plenty of white pines, oaks, blueberries or huckleberries are good bets. Try the Middlesex FellsStony Brook Reservation, or the Lynn Woods.

But whatever you do, don’t pick lady’s slippers. They’re astonishingly bad at producing seeds—on average they set seed only once every ten years— so a few bouquets can make them go locally extinct. And forget about transplanting them. They’ll just die if you don’t have a special sterile lady’s slipper propagation lab.

No, you’ll just have to enjoy them in a park. Aren’t you glad we have public land?

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Part of an ongoing series from Meg Muckenhoupt, author of Boston’s Gardens & Green Spaceswhere she shines light on what’s currently blooming around Boston. Looking to grow your own garden? Check out Meg’s recent blog post on plant sales around Greater Boston this month.

Meg Muckenhoupt is a freelance environmental and travel writer. Her articles have appeared in The Boston Globe, the Boston PhoenixBoston Magazine, the Time Out Boston guide, and many other publications. She holds a certificate in Field Botany from the New England Wild Flower Society. Meg is available to give talks on topics related to the history of Boston’s parks and other garden-related subjects. Visit her website for more information or contact shelby@unionparkpress.com.