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June 8, 2022: Lady's Slippers

During your visit at Hirundo, make sure to include a walk down the Lady Slipper Trail. Enjoy the white and pink lady's slippers (more on them below!), the partridgeberry, Canada mayflower, and the flowering dogwoods.


This log is covered with a fungus, aptly called Green Stain (Chlorociboria aeruginascens). The fruiting bodies shaped like cups are only 1/4 " wide. It is the fungal threads, growing in the wood, that contain a green pigment, turning the wood green.


As you drive into the parking area peer into the field on your left. It is filled with the native Blue Flag. As always, please look and do not pick, so others can enjoy Nature's bounty.


LADY'S SLIPPERS


Maine has four species of Lady’s Slippers which belong in the orchid family. These include the pink lady's-slipper, ram's head lady's-slipper, yellow lady's-slipper, and showy lady's-slipper. Both the ram's head lady's-slipper and the showy lady's-slipper are rare state-wide. The Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) generally has a pink flower blooming at the end of a leafless stalk. Two opposite basal leaves with parallel veins are at the base of the stalk. The plant grows 6 to 15 inches tall. At Hirundo the Lady's Slippers bloom from the end of May until end of June. Along the Lady Slipper Trail you can find the pink, common form but also the rare white form.


One of the most unusual and beautiful wildflowers in our woods at the Refuge are the Lady’s Slipper. This member of the orchid family (one of the largest plant families on earth) has a very usual flower structure and pollination process. This local example has a striking pink to white, bulbous fused petals that contains the pollen inside - hidden from view. These showy flowers with a sweet scent attract bees that enter the flower from a one-way slit in the front. Hairs projecting from the petals guide the bees out the backdoor. This fun is not over yet! Before exit, the bee must pass under the stigma (egg) to which pollen (sperm) the bee carried in attaches. Now fertilization has started. As the bee departs, it picks up a load of pollen from this flower which will be deposited at the next lady's slipper. And the job still isn't done! The teeny, tiny seed produced from successful fertilization then must attach to a soil fungus in order to successfully produce another plant. Please enjoy these beautiful plants from afar, they have a lot of work to do!