Lady's Slipper, Cypripedium montanum

M'lady's Slipper

Ladys' Slipper, Cypripedium montanum

Lady's slipper: a plant that has small white flowers in the shape of a shoe

© 2000 by James L. Reveal

M'lady's Closet

bushy plant with white petals curled up to make tiny shoes

© 2000 by James L. Reveal

On June 30, 1805, after Another Brush With Death above Montana's Lolo Creek, Lewis noticed a flower: "in shape and appearance like ours"—in Virginia, of course—"only that the corolla is white, marked with small veigns of pale red longitudinally on the inner side." He might also have remarked upon its three twisted sepals, flung back carelessly like big bold brunette dreadlocks.

Since the plant didn't seem to be a new species—although it really was—he didn't collect a specimen. Apparently he pointed one out to Clark two days later at Travelers' Rest, for Clark copied Lewis's brief identification of it verbatim except for a postscript—"and much smaller."

Its scientific name is Cypripedium montanum Dougl. The genus name, Cypripedium, is a combination of Cypris, which is the Latin name for "Venus"; and pedium, "foot." The specific epithet, montanum, means "mountain." Although other members of this genus have been transplanted far and wide, the species montanum is at home only in the northern Rockies, and even there is rare today. Several of its botanical features identifiy it with the orchid family.


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