Moccasin Flower, Pink Lady’s Slipper, Stemless Lady’s Slipper, Cypripedium acaule–all names for the same plant, the most abundant lady’s slipper in the state of Minnesota (though being an orchid, still hardly common). This is the only lady’s slipper to have a longitudinal, puckered crease down the lip, which is where it earns the name Moccasin Flower. While it appears to have the cleanest stem of all lady’s slippers, with leaves growing only at the base, truthfully the stem is very short and entirely underground; what we would call the stem is actually a peduncle or a scape, hence the name Stemless Lady’s Slipper.
The most famous story of how the moccasin flower came to be tells the story of an Ojibwe village, where over winter many had fallen ill. A girl determines the only way to save her people is to run to the next village for medicine, and she runs so fast and hard over the ice and snow that her moccasins fall to tatters and the ice cuts her feet, leaving droplets of blood along her trail. She returns with the medicine, saving her village, and in the spring wherever a droplet of blood had fallen, there grows a lady’s slipper.
I associate these flowers with the town of Cotton, up on the Iron Range, and Old School Lives, a non-profit ministry occupying the old Cotton school. The flowers grow along the trails behind the school, while inside the school are shops and programs geared toward restoring community, strengthening families, establishing relationships, and confirming health–from supporting local artists with the gift shop and renting rooms for studios, to offering a thrift shops, to serving free community meals (where all are welcome), to providing an extensive wellness center, and believe me, much, much more. If you ever have reason to go to the Iron Range, stop in Cotton and check out the Old School right off Hwy 53–great things are always happening.
Photos by Rachael Koppendrayer, June 18, 2017, June 16, 2016