The genus Cypripedium is scattered throughout the northern hemisphere and consists of about 47 species. Most species are found in North America and in Asia. Species flower colours from deep red to brown, pink, yellow, green and white. Most species will have subalpine or temperate conditions, while a few species are found in warmer areas such as Yunnan in China and on Taiwan. In the wild Cypripedium adapted to widely differing requirements for habitats. Some species require shrub vegetation in acidic lowlands while other species require prairies or openings in wooded areas often on calcareous ground. Species structure shows an incredible variety wealth, and there are species that practically missing stalk and with 2-3 leaves way down to the ground to tall species with many leaves as Cypripedium subtropicum from Tibet up to 1.5 meters. Species leaf number and their appearance varies. Genus exotic name, the flower’s shape

and beauty, complex and advanced system developed for pollination has resulted in the entire genus with almost all species over time has been among the most interesting plants for collectors. In addition, the collection from the wild for commercial resale also been a major problem and several of the species are in danger of extinction. The word shoe or slipper-orchid is a collective term for orchids with shoe-like flowers in the genera Cypripedium, Mexipedium (Mexico), Paphiopedilum (Asia), Phragmipedium (South America) and Selenipedium (South America). There are three species in Europe. The most famous is our own Marisko (Cypripedium calceolus) exists completely east to China and the Pacific. In Europe from eastern Russia and the eastern part of Japan’s Cypripedium macranthos, and from Belarus and east to Japan’s Cypripedium guttatum. These last two species have no Norwegian names.


Lady’s-slipper Orchid – Cypripedium calceolus

This species was first described by Linnaeus who in 1753 gave the Latin name Cypripedium calceolus. The name translates to the poetic “the little venus shoes”. Up through time has Cypripedium calceolus given many names because this plant are so special that one could not avoid notice it and name it. Names lady shoes, gold shoes, St. Olav bowl and slipper flower (in Norwegian: “fruesko, gullsko, St. Olav bolle og tøffelblomst”) are known and are still in use. The name Marisko (mean: Virgin Mary gold shoes)) is most commonly used in may be encountered in that faith in God was so strong in the early times that they did not dare to misuse God’s name by directly providing a plant name Virgin Mary gold shoes. In respect and perhaps in fear of misusing God’s name was renamed Marisko.
  In Norway Cypripedium calceolus from Porsgrunn and further north in East Norway, through Møre og Romsdal, Trøndelag counties and as far north as South Varanger in Finnmark. The deficiencies in the South and West in the Agder counties, Rogaland, Hordaland and Sogn og Fjordane. Lids Norwegian Flora reports it is planted in the nature of Hvaler and Moss where it also grows strayed. Cypripedium calceolus found on calcareous soil preferably with pine and deciduous forest, but also less frequently found in the pure spruce forest. In Nordland also fully exposed to the sun higher than birch grows and Jotunheimen to 1150 above sea level.

Norske orkideer - Cypripedium calceolus - marisko

Cypripedium calceolus

Norske orkideer - marisko

Close up

Two of the best populations I’ve visited is in pure spruce with little calcareous ground in small mosaics middle of blueberry spruce forest, and one population had about 1,000 flowering plants. Another rich population is a 90 year old forest of pines on cranberries land with very few and small mosaics with something more alkaline soil. When these areas located far down the steep hillsides, I guess it’s calcareous groundwater that emerge from the soil surface some few places in an otherwise acid forest soils. In Norway there are protected areas that have several thousand flowering specimens.

Lady’s-slipper Orchid is 20-50 cm tall and blooms with its one to three yellow and brown flower relatively early and often before Heath Spotted-orchid has begun to flourish. The flower has five brown petals, the sixth is yellow and shaped like a shoe or bowl. It has two stamens. Lady’s-slipper Orchid is the orchid which has the largest flowers and the flowers are a wonderful insect trap. The flowers lack nectar, but smells sweet and good which it uses in order to trick bees of the genus Andrena. The bee lands on the lip and will continue into the shoe to gather nectar. The walls are slippery inside as bien almost falling into the shoe. On the shoe inside there are some lighter areas with small windows that show the way to the exit and freedom. At peak inside there are two narrow exits. Bien must squeeze through behind Pollini and have to hug scar. Have the pollinium with it gets deposited on the scar. A flower is thus not pollinate from own pollinium and the whole process is a result of co-evolution..

Are you in an area with Lady’s-slipper Orchid late in the summer, you will usually not find a single faded plant with seed capsules. My own observations are that more sun-exposed plants often get seed capsules. Studies in the US have also shown that after wildfires increases the amount of seed capsules with up to 80% (for the species Cypripedium acaule). The explanation must be as simple as that more sun-exposed plants provide warmer air with several insects. Low production of seed capsules apply to the entire genus with all species. A not unknown hypothesis about evolution has led it astray and made pollination so complicated that pollination rarely succeed? The vegetative propagation capability of Lady’s-slipper Orchid is excellent as it is often puts more shots from the rhizome, and a single plant can as the years pass establish across several square meters.

Lady’s-slipper Orchid is protected under the Nature Diversity Act and the Norwegian Red List as endangered.





Lady’s-slipper Orchid in habitats:

Norske orkideer - marisko - cypripedium calceolus

Norske orkideer - Marisko

Norske orkideer - Marisko

Norske orkideer - Marisko

Norske orkideer - Marisko

Norske orkideer - Marisko

Norske orkideer - Marisko - Cypripedium calceolus