Lady Slippers!

We live in what is primarily hemlock forest, and if you've ever walked through a wood like that you might have been impressed by something--the almost complete lack of any understory growth. But our hemlocks are a bit mixed and enough light reaches the earth to allow the growth of several kinds of terrestrial orchids, even pink lady slippers (Cypripedium acaule). We're lucky to have such rare treasures. The stars must be aligned just right, as these dainty pouchlike plants require very specific growing conditions. But we've been worried of late--the hemlocks are dying off as a result of wooly adelgid, and the changing forest is playing havoc with what little life is on the forest floor. Our biggest swaths of pinks lady slippers have declined amazingly in the last few years. In one spot we went from more than 20 a couple years ago to a lonely trio now. So, it was a fine surprise yesterday, when I happened on a brand new stand of lady slippers growing in the shade of several magnolias I planted at the forest edge. Life goes on.

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