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A Child's Fascination with Pink Lady's Slippers

by Mary Johnson

As a child, each year in mid-May I would walk to the edge of the woods on our property in New Hampshire to look for the pink lady's slippers (Cypripedium acaule). I knew I’d find them just as I had the previous year and the year before that one. Spread out in the glistening meadow before me in the early light of morning, the drooping pouches on slender stalks seemed to glow from within like tiny lanterns. I liked to imagine them illuminating a path for the deer and other animals as they emerged from the nearby woods at night to dance in the pine needles while us humans were asleep. Or instead, maybe they were satiny pink ballet slippers that the bunnies danced in on moonlit nights. The softness of the delicately veined blossoms reminded me of a velvet skirt my mother had sewn me for Christmas one year. I marveled at how fragile these orchids appeared, yet they returned year after year enduring even the harshest New Hampshire winters, while I snuggled cozily under a warm blanket. These and other enchanting plants on our property—with equally enchanting names, like jack-in-the pulpit, fringed polygala, and Dutchman’s breeches—fueled my young imagination and ignited a lifelong affection for native plants that has followed me to New York, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.

Mary is a freelance editor and former managing editor of Douglasia, the journal of the Washington Native Plant Society. She also volunteers to restore native plants in her local community of Sammamish.

Photo Credit: Dr Thomas G Barnes , U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.


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