Common Name:  Pink Lady's Slipper, Moccasin Flower, American Valerian

Scientific Name:  Cypripedium acaule (Latin acaule means "without a stalk (caulis),"  as the flower grows directly from the basal leaves without a true stem)


A large, striking pink orchid found in relative abundance along woodland trails (orchid derives from the Greek orchis meaning testicle referring to the globular shape of the plant's tuber --- orchiectomy is the technical term for castration).


Potpourri:  Botanists in the middle Ages named the flower Calceolus marianus, the "little shoe of the Virgin Mary."  When renamed by Carolus Linnaeus, it took on the more secular Cypripedium, "Venus's slipper."  This derives from the Greek Kypris for Venus, who arose from sea foam caused off the coast of Cyprus, and podium, little foot.  The name Moccasin Flower also relates to the shape.


The flower has a small slit in the front to allow pollinators to enter. As the slit has inward folds to prevent it from backing out, the insect is forced to crawl through the flower to two exits on either side of the top, thereby enhancing pollen transfer for fertilization.


The root of the lady's slipper has been used as a sedative since colonial times.  Powdered root was steeped in boiling water and used as a tranquilizing tonic and was widely available as a drug in the 19th Century.  The name American Valerian refers to its use as a substitute for the European garden heliotrope (genus Valeriana) known as valerian, which has similar uses as a remedy for nervousness.

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