Ram’s Head Lady’s Slipper

ram's head lady's slipper blossom
Ram’s Head Lady’s Slipper, Cypripedium arietinum

The tiniest and rarest of Minnesota’s native lady’s slippers, the Ram’s Head Lady’s Slipper is a challenge to find. It’s only 4-16 inches tall, with the slipper-like pouch averaging merely half an inch long (compared to the 2-inch long pouch of the Showy Lady’s Slipper), and it loves daunting terrain, like bogs, cedar swamps, and dense, northern forests.

Like other lady’s slippers, it relies on deception for pollination. The blossom creates a sweet scent as though it carries nectar—fooling bees into entering and picking up the pollen—while never delivering the promised food. Naïve bees might move onto the next blossom in hopes of nectar, but they aren’t always fooled for long. And we wonder why orchids are rare! (Well, besides the habitat destruction, the nearly-always-fatal transplant attempts, and the necessity for specific fungus in the soil to survive).