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Steve Foss

More ladyslippers than you can shake a stick at

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Up here in the boreal country, yellow ladyslippers are less common than stemless (pink) ladyslippers. I've found a spot for yellows, and just 100 yards farther down, pink ladyslippers can be found.

Two things are unusual about this location this year. One is that the yellows and stemless are all prime right now, at the same time. Usually, the stemless go prime about 10 days to 2 weeks before the yellows. I think our cool spring kept the stemless in check long enough so that when they popped, the yellows were popping too.

Second thing is that, while there are about a dozen yellows, including a clump of five, there are several hundred stemless. The stemless is the most commonly found ladyslipper up here but usually is found in singles, pairs or triples. I found several clumps today with 7 blooms in a clump, all blooming at the same time, and one photo below shows 8 clumped blooms.

Needless to say, I'm marking the spot on the map of my mind. Best part is they are not visible from any trail. I found a clump of 6-7 stemless last year blooming right next to a trail and when I returned to do more photography a week later they'd been cut off at the ground.

Within a week the stemless and yellow show will be mostly finished, and our attention will turn to showy ladyslippers and a host of other midsummer orchids. gringrin

All from this morning with the Canon 30D, iso400, tripod and remote shutter release, some with mirror lock-up enabled, all with diffusion disc to mellow harsh sun

Small yellow ladyslippers in tandem

Canon 100 f2.8 macro, 1/80 @ f5.6

3643769281_aba50c20be_o.jpg

Stemless (pink) in a clump. Note the accompanying plants (blueberry, moss, balsam, bunchberry, Canada mayflower, clintonia, Labrador tea, among others) and you'll always know good places to look for stemless ladslippers

Canon 10-22 @ 16mm, 1/40 @ f8

3643776471_67ce69631f_o.jpg

Clump No. 2

10-22 @ 22mm, 1/25 @ f13

3644580346_4661689780_o.jpg

Alone, but not alone

10-22 @ 16mm, 1/60 @ f5.6

3643772885_06c483fac7_o.jpg

On dry land

Stemless ladyslippers grow in a dizzying variety of landscapes, from dry jackpine forests to the wettest black spruce/sphagnum bogs

10-22 @ 10mm, 1/160 @ f9

3643771169_030a958b1c_o.jpg

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Very nice Steve!......Never tire of looking at these beautiful slippers!......Are those "yellows" the large or smaller variety?....The ones I found were pushing 24" so certainly the larger variety....I also found a large patch of "pinks" last year with about 75 flowers but this year that same patch was nonexistent and didn't bloom for whatever reason...

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Jonny, pretty sure they were the small variety (I labeled them "small" when I posted). They were two feet tall, with flowers a good bit smaller than the large subspecies.

A couple things make it dicey to ID the variety based on height of the plant. They overlap quite a bit. The small is 12-43 cm, the large 18-60 cm long. And where they both occur in the same range (most of their Minnesota range is roughly the same), they can interbreed, producing plants with characteristics of both varieties.

So the ones pictured are 2 feet tall, which makes them a bit over 43 cm, but they had very small flowers, and sometimes in shady environments, plants will grow taller in an effort to find the sun. We have yellows near our cabin north of Bemidji with blossom pouches three times as large as the ones pictured here.

I'm fairly comfortable calling them "small" variety yellow ladyslippers, but I think it would take a botanist to be make a positive ID.

I use Welby Smith's Orchids of Minnesota to ID orchids, but it is not user friendly unless one is a botanist, and it can be difficult for someone like me to make sure I've got what I think I've got. Aside from use of the metric system instead of inches/feet, the photographs of each species are in a central section of plates, like the old fashioned bird guides) instead of a photo/photos to go along with each species account and illustration. I know the book is in the process of being re-vamped (I've sent in several orchid images for consideration in the new guide), and I hope they make it easier for non-botanists to use.

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Thanks for the info Steve......Now I'm not sure what my yellows were/are grin....I noticed the "sepals"(I think they're called sepals) the 3 twisted tendril type brownish things on my yellows are longer then in your images...not sure what bearing that might have on plant ID...

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Jonny, the various parts of both varieties vary a lot in length, in many cases overlapping each other. According to Smith, if the pouch is over 3 cm long (1.2 inches) it's almost certainly the large variety, but if it's smaller than 3 cm it may be either the small variety, a smaller specimen of the large variety or the offspring of both varieties.

See, clear as mud! gringrin

One other field mark I forgot to mention in my last post is that the twisty petals/sepals of the large variety are more yellowish-green, while they tend to be red-brown on the small variety. It's not an absolute field mark, however, just another one to be balanced with other field marks in trying to pin down variety.

On the bright side, they are the only two variety of yellow ladyslipper in Minnesota, so confusing as they are, they ARE the same species, and the varieties can only be confused with each other. smilesmile

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Thanks again Steve....."If greater then 1.2" ".......My yellows were definitely greater then 1.2"...They were close to 1.75"....some even larger if I remember.....Im going with the large variety grin.....I just hope nobody picks the ones I found as they are just off the road to a local lake...2 plants were on the shoulder!....Find out next year I guess.....I'll send you an E-mail if you'd like Steve of "my batch" location....it takes years for these plants to flower and develop as I just researched and read....

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Thanks Jonny, but I've got a bunch of 25 scattered large variety yellows along a private road near our lake cabin by Bemidji, and a ton of images of them in the archives. smilesmile

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Sounds like you got a ton of em!.....I'm finding out that I can take so many pics of the slippers and they all end up kinda the same from year to year also grin....every year brings a "couple" new ones!

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Me too. This is the sixth year shooting ladyslippers, and every year I look at how I've done it before and see if I can do it the same way -- but better -- as well as experimenting with new ways.

The perfect picture is out there. I hope I never find it, but it's fun to keep looking through the lens. smilesmile

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One other field mark I forgot to mention in my last post is that the twisty petals/sepals of the large variety are more yellowish-green, while they tend to be red-brown on the small variety. It's not an absolute field mark, however, just another one to be balanced with other field marks in trying to pin down variety.

That's what I noticed on my photos from the Arboretum on May 20th. I had the advantage of having labels on all of the clumps, but the smalls were distinctly Minnesota gopher colors, and the large more of a greenish rust. Nice photos.

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Those are incredible Steve, as usual! That diffusion screen sure gives you a nice lighting. I like the one by the stump the best.

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Gorgeous images! I love all the slippers you guys have found & shared, I have looked and looked around our cabin and haven't seen any although we have most of the other plants you mentioned - I think I'll venture into the Chippewa Nat'l Forest next week and see if I can find anything there..

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Lovely shots Steve (as always)! Do you usually find ladyslippers in close proximity to bunchberry? I think it's great that you have the two together in one shot.

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Mike, most locations that grow stemless and yellow ladyslippers also grow bunchberry. However, lots and lots of locations that grow bunchberry don't also grow ladyslippers.

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Steve -

These are very lovely shots. I assume by now these are almost done and the showy's will be starting? I ask because I'll be in Lake of the Woods next week and hope to pull hubby away from fishing long enough to get out and try finding some flowers to shoot.

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Debbie, you may still find yellows. Check the median ditch between the split lanes of Hwy. 11 from Warroad to Baudette. There have generally been tons of blooming yellow and showy ladyslippers in those ditches. Good luck will mean you get some late yellows AND early showies. Bad luck will mean you're right between the two with neither prime.

So let's wish for good luck, and watch out for poison ivy! gringrin

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And don't forget how stunningly effective the 100-400 can be as a floral lens, particularly with medium-large blooms like ladyslippers. I know it's only an f5.6 lens, but part of its great bokeh is due to the large number of aperture blades, and if you get a background far enough away and your blooms are just past the minimum focus distance of the lens at 400mm, you've really got something special there. A very different effect than the 100 macro. To this day, some of my favorite (and most popular) flower images were captured with the 100-400. Darn good butterfly lens, too. smilesmile

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