Physical Characteristics: Mountain Lady’s Slipper is in the orchidaceae (orchid) family and is a perennial herb 20-40cm tall with leafy, slightly sheathing stems. Leaves alternate, may be egg-shaped and are also sparsely hairy with strong parallel stems. Flowers are white with purple veins, quite fragrant and the lip inflated to a “showy” pouch. There are rarely two flowers and they appear May to July.
Habitat: Extremely variable – found in dry to moist forests, mixed conifer forests, shrub thickets and alpine meadows – with an elevation range 1600 – 6900 ft. Associated tree species include Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, Ponderosa pine, quaking aspen and oak.
Range: Found from British Columbia to southern Alberta to Rocky Mountains of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Populations also extend south from Washington into northern California but are more common east of the Cascades. Large discontinuity between range of species.
Reproduction: Not much literature on life history. Believed to be pollinated by small bees.
Threats: Collecting wild plants is strongly discouraged. The Mountain Lady Slipper has small populations and is easily decimated. Transplanted wild plants (gardens) rarely survive. It is illegal to pick or dig orchids on federal lands.
Misc: The Lewis & Clark Expedition was the first to document the species in Western North America. A specimen was collected on the Weippe Prairie of Idaho June 14, 1806.