Cypripedium candidum (Small White Lady's-slipper)

Plant Info
Also known as: White Moccasin-flower
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist prairies, sedge meadows, calcareous fens
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:6 to 34 inches
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular

[photo of flower] Single to rarely two flowers on slender stem (peduncle), The inflated lower petal (the slipper) is ¾ to 1 inch long, glossy white, sometimes faint purple speckling lining pouch opening and/or faint veination on lower pouch. Bright yellow flower column, often splashed with red, broadens into a flat oval lip, appressed tightly into pouch opening. Lateral petals are narrow, to 1½ inches long, greenish brown and twisted. Sepals are similar in color; lateral sepals are fused behind the lip; upper sepal is broader and erect above the lip. The single leaf-like floral bract is up to 4¼ inches long.

Leaves: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] 2 to 4 leaves on the upper part of the stem are broad to lance-elliptical, each 2 to 6 inches long, covered with short hairs and parallel veins, are alternately attached and sheath the stem. A few scale-like leaves sheath the lower part of the stem. Dense clumps of up to 50 stems emerge from a single root.


Small White Lady's-slipper is a rapidly declining treasure and is a Minnesota State Special Concern species. My first post-college position was at (what I still call) the new zoo in Apple Valley. About that time construction began on the new Cedar Ave. bridge over the Minnesota River Valley. We obtained a salvage permit for orchids within the construction zone. Other orchid species, C. reginae (Showy Lady's-slipper) and C. parviflorum var. makasin (Small Yellow Lady's-slipper) were also present but masses of C. candidum were visible into the distance. None survived our hastily prepared beds at the zoo but no matter, today they are all but extinguished from the area. The culprit? Commercially developed reed canary-grass hybrids (RCG) - Phalaris arundinaceae, that swallowed up all of the land. Development and invasive species, can we envision less costly and destructive progress?

Please visit our sponsors

  • Must have book: Pollinators of Native Plants

Where to buy native seed and plants ↓

Map of native plant purveyors in the upper midwest

  • Shooting Star Native Seeds - Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Seeds
  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants
  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers
  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water
  • Itasca Ladyslipper Farm - Native orchids, container grown

More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken on SNA lands in Cottonwood County where RCG also presents an imminent threat


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Dave - Stevens County
on: 2010-06-20 13:56:33

I know of a small patch of these lady slippers on a private piece of remnant native prairie next to a wetland, NW of Morris, MN.

Posted by: Brian - LeSueur County
on: 2011-06-11 00:01:07

There's a colony of literally thousands of these plants in LeSueur County that I and others have been observing for many years. The {expletives deleted} reed canary grass is invading the colony, though. Here's a link to my photos on Flickr: I and a friend saw a few (large handful...?) of them in a fen near the Cities about a week and a half ago, but the population density was only a tiny fraction of that at the LeSueur County site.

Posted by: Kylene - Chippewa County
on: 2011-10-05 10:13:19

I have been observing this orchid, Cypripedium candidumin, small white lady slipper, in Chippewa County, western Minnesota, for the past 7 years. Some years they are very prolific and others just a few bloom. They bloom in late May - early June. I have some beautiful pictures I have taken over the past few years. Kylene

Posted by: Tom - Blue Stem Prairie (Nature Conservancy)
on: 2012-04-11 22:15:36

south of Buffalo River State Park. Found in wet meadow, south of parking area. Scattered clumps of 1-3 plants, blooming in May. First seen in 2008.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.