header photo

Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society

Focusing on native plants and conservation in North Idaho

Mountain Lady’s Slipper

Species profile by Wendy Aescliman

Common Name(s): Mountain Lady's Slipper

Scientific Name: Cypripedium montanum   Cypripedium comes from the Greek kupris (Aphrodite - Venus) and pedilion (a shoe), thus meaning Aphrodite’s shoe!

Family:  Orchidaceae   Orchid Family

General Info:  Perennial, 20 to 70 cm (8-28 in) tall.  Cord-like roots.

Native/ Non-native:  Native

Range:  Alaska to northern California, northern Idaho, and northwestern Wyoming.

Ecology:  Low to subalpine elevations, dry to moist, open areas and open woods on moist humus.  Most often occur in open mixed conifer or mixed conifer hardwood forests but also documented in forest openings, shrub thickets and alpine meadows.

Light:  Open to lightly shaded areas.

Leaves:  Leaves 2-6 in (5-15 cm) long, ovate, broadly lance-shaped, to egg-shaped which occur all along the stem.  Bases of lowest leaves are wrapped around the stem.

Flowers:  Showy flowers easily recognized which form a distinct pouch.  Upper petals and sepals are greenish yellow to purplish bronze which twist and curl.  Usually 1 per stem, but may be 2 or 3.  1.3-3 in (3.1-7.5 cm) long.  Flowers of the orchid family are composed of 3 sepals and 3 petals, but in some species the lowest petal is highly modified.  In this species the elaborate lip acts to attract insects drawn to nectar at its base.

Fruits:  Seeds of the orchid family are borne in capsules, distinctive for their profusion, and unusual in that they have no food reserve.  Successful germination depends upon ideal conditions.

Notes:  Two sepals are fused together, one petal modified to become the lip!

Please protect; do not disturb.  Collection of wild plants is strongly discouraged. Most mountain lady’s slipper populations are very small, can easily be decimated, and transplanted wild plants rarely survive.

Plants of Southern Interior British Colombia and the Inland Northwest (Parish, Coupé, Lloyd), 1996

Resource Links:

A magnificent display, quite rare actually, in a moist habitat north and east of Sandpoint, ID:

Photos by Wendy Aeschliman