One of the most beautiful spring flowers is the endangered Pink Lady's Slipper, Cypripedium acaule, also known as Mocassin Flower. If you come upon one (or several) as you amble through the woods this time of year, count yourself blessed!
These beautiful flowers are in the orchid family. One of the reasons they are so rare is that they are slow growing and need very specific fungi to help the seedlings survive, specifically one from the Rhizoctonia genus. Most seeds have internal food supplies; but not so for the Pink Lady's Slipper. These orchid seeds require the assistance of the Rhizoctonia fungus to break open the seed. The fungus attaches to the seed, and then passes on food and nutrients. Once the plant reaches an age where it starts producing most of its own nutrients, the fungus then extracts nutrients from the orchid roots. A Pink Lady's Slipper plant can live twenty years or more.
All varieties of Lady's Slipper are on the United Plant Savers' “At-Risk” list.
Native peoples primarily used this beautiful plant for its antispasmodic, nervine and tonic properties. There are many common weeds and medicinal plants available with these same properties, so there is no need to disturb these beautiful beings. This plant was hunted to near extinction by both herbalists and Eclectic physicians in the 1800s-early 1900s as a treatment for female 'hysteria.'
There is a great way to enjoy the benefits of this beautiful and gentle plant without disturbing it, and that is to make a flower essence out of it. Simply place your water bowl near the plant, under the flower. The plant's energetics will do the rest. This is the most respectful way to create a flower essence with an endangered species.
“I am the Guardian of the Forest. Who will guard for me if I become extinct?” This is a good question and a reminder that we humans must be mindful of our green friends, and not to destroy our wooded areas or over-harvest.
If you MUST have a pink lady's slipper, may I suggest the cocktail – a mix of cranberry and pink grapefruit juices and vodka. Otherwise, enjoy the flower essence, and, if you are lucky enough to find one, the plant itself.
To learn more about United Plant Savers, and how you can help save medicinal plants: https://www.unitedplantsavers.org/about-ups
To join United Plant Savers: https://www.unitedplantsavers.org/join-ups