NISSWA -- They hang suspended in a sea of green like discarded pixie footwear.
For some a vision of the yellow lady's-slipper comes from a chance encounter. More likely sightings of the woodland flower come from forest hikes with someone who has the coveted knowledge of the lady's-slipper habitat.
Name 'lady's-slipper' relates to blossom's shape
A lady's-slipper is an orchid in which the lip of the flower is slipper-shaped.
The genus Cypripedium has about 50 temperate and subtropical species. Cypripedium is actually Greek for "Venus' slipper." The name "lady's-slipper" relates to the blossom's shape. Some see the flower as a footwear for a minute dancer. Lateral petals are viewed as ribbons to tie the slipper to a ballet dancer's ankle.
One well-known species is the yellow lady's-slipper. Another is the pink lady's-slipper, also known as the moccasin flower.
Most species have one or two flowers on a stem about 12 to 24 inches tall. The flower, which prefers woodlands or wet places, typically blooms from May to July.
The yellow lady's-slipper is the most common in Minnesota with two varieties, one that prospers in lower, wet areas and one that thrives in a drier habitat.
The yellow lady's-slipper is a relative of Minnesota's state flower -- the pink and white showy lady's-slipper, which is the largest of the state's native orchids.
The pink and white lady's-slipper is one of Minnesota's rarest wildflowers.
Thriving in swamps, bogs and damp woods, they grow slowly, taking four to 16 years to produce their first flower.
Sometimes they live for 50 years and grow four feet tall. They bloom in late June or early July. It is illegal to pick the lady's-slipper.
Lady's-slippers appear in a wreath around the state seal on Minnesota's state flag.
(Sources: State of Minnesota, Lady Slipper Flower Co.)
But in Nisswa, lady's-slippers can be seen as part of a daily trip outside the back door.
Between 60 and 70 yellow lady's-slippers nestle in a shady corner garden next to the McGerrs' rural Nisswa home. The woodland flower has lateral petals that range from a greenish-yellow to a purple or brown color. The lip, or what appears as the slipper itself, is yellow and is typically veined with purple.
About 60 to 70 yellow lady's-slippers grow in a corner garden in Nisswa. The flowers grew from an original seven or eight plants that were saved from destruction at a building site.
The McGerrs have witnessed the spring blossoms that arrive in May and can last until July for more than two decades. That relationship began when a building project was going to destroy a lady's-slipper growing area. The flowers were removed from the building site and offered free to interested co-workers. The McGerrs took seven or eight of the lady's-slipper plants, putting them in a garden at the family's northeast Brainerd home.
"When we moved out here we took them with," Larry McGerr said of the move from a city neighborhood in Brainerd to a large, rural lot in Nisswa. There the McGerrs planted the flowers in a northeast corner along their one-story white home.
Shaded by mature pines, the large lot offers a variety of flower beds but none possibly more striking than dozens of yellow lady's-slippers.
Twenty-four years later, another move has the McGerrs checking their packing lists. The lady's-slippers are slated to move back to their earlier northeast Brainerd location where a second generation of McGerrs will become their caretakers.
Planted in a northeast corner near the home, the yellow lady's-slippers found a shady home near the path leading to the back door.
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