Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin (Small Yellow Lady's-slipper)

Plant Info
Also known as: Lesser Yellow Lady's-slipper
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; wet to moist soil; conifer swamps, fens, boreal forests
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:6 to 17 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular

[photo of flowers] One to rarely two flowers, the inflated lower petal (the slipper) is  ¾ to 1¼ inches long, glossy yellow, with purple splotches lining pouch opening and faint purple veination on lower pouch. Bright yellow flower column, splashed with purple, broadens into a flat oval lip, appressed tightly into pouch opening. Lateral petals are narrow, up to 2 inches long, typically spirally twisted, dark purple/brown but can be lighter, flecked with greenish striping. Sepals are similar in color, 2 are fused behind the lip; upper sepal is broader and is erect above the lip. A single leaf-like, sparsely hairy floral bract stands erect at the top of the stem, behind the ovary.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] 2 to 5 leaves, oval to elliptical, 2½ to 6½ inches long with distinct parallel veins are alternately attached and sheathe the stem. Several scale-like leaves sheathe the lower stem. 10 or more stems may emerge from a single root.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruit is an oblong-elliptic capsule containing numerous tiny seeds.


From frequent clumped masses in sunny damp ditches along Hwy 59 in Red Lake County, this dainty ballerina like flower migrates deep into coniferous bogs in the Cass Lake area. More adaptable than most native orchids it is increasingly cultivated and available for purchase. There are 3 accepted varieties of Yellow Lady's-slipper, 2 of which are found in Minnesota. The most noticeable difference between var. makasin and var. pubescens (Large Yellow Lady's-slipper) is the flower size; the latter flowers are about twice the size and is overall hairier, the former has flowers about the same size as C. candidum (Small White Lady's-slipper). Also, var. pubescens sepals tend to be more yellowish-green and var. makasin more dark maroon.

Where C. candidum and C. parviflorum (either or both vars) are in close proximity to each other, such as the edge where prairie meets forest, hybrids are likely to occur; the hybrid between C. candidum and C. parviflorum var. makasin is known as C. ×andrewsii. According to Welby Smith's book “Native Orchids of Minnesota”, the hybrids can be baffling, most with intermediate characteristics in flower size and color, but some with different traits of each parent. In each case, the flower color may be white, creamy or yellow. It also mentions a study in Iowa showed hybridization was more common than previously thought, the hybrids cross-breeding between themselves and their parents, known as a hybrid swarm.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken at various locations in Beltrami and Cass Counties; the indoor image taken at Orchids Limited in Plymouth, MN. Photo by Derek Anderson taken in Mahnomen County.


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

Posted by: Kelly - Deer River
on: 2011-06-18 12:12:54

Saw a small group of these yesterday. I am not sure if they are the larger or smaller of the yellow lady slippers. I was so excited to see these strange looking flowers!!

Posted by: Twila - Hubbard County, by Garfield Lake
on: 2012-05-17 17:59:10

My son has a small clump in his yard, north side of Garfield Lake, in Hubbard County

Posted by: Marie - Hight of Land Lake area
on: 2012-05-20 21:56:24

Plenty of these on the wildlife management trails out here. What a beautiful flower!

Posted by: Dennis - west of mille lacs on county road 2
on: 2013-06-13 18:21:15

I have both the Greater and small Yellow lady slipper growing on my property.

Posted by: Bill - Pennington County
on: 2013-10-10 06:33:34

I have the Small Yellow Lady's Slipper on my property and the Showy just down the road about 2 miles.

Posted by: Sue - Lake Zumbro
on: 2014-06-14 08:38:21

We found two flowered plants and several plants nearby without flowers. We will be watching this area in the future.

Posted by: Anthony - Le Seuer County
on: 2014-07-15 03:56:04

Found several plants on north-facing wooded slopes on Minnesota River bluffs

Posted by: Anthony - Southwestern Hennepin County
on: 2014-07-15 03:58:11

Found one flowering clump near a biking trail that surrounds a tamarack swamp in Southwestern Hennepin County

Posted by: Anthony - Southeastern Carver County
on: 2014-07-15 03:58:58

Found a few large flowering clumps in a very rich fen in Southeastern Scott County

Posted by: Andre - Blue Earth County
on: 2015-05-22 00:32:35

There are several clumps of these on a wooded ridge above the Le Sueur River in Blue Earth County. It is a spot just south of Mankato, a 15 or 20 minute walk down river from Red Jacket Park.

Posted by: Patty - Rochester
on: 2015-06-02 21:53:10

Saw two of these in Whitewater State Park on May 30, 2015. One was past its prime. They were located on the trail between Chimney Rock and Inspiration Point.

Posted by: Rick - Crosby
on: 2015-06-07 17:53:29

I was checking the progress of some showy lady slippers that I discovered at a nearby public access and lo! and behold! There were two clumps of small yellow lady slippers in the grass and such tiny flowers that I almost overlooked them. I was shocked at how small they are, I have regular yellow lady slippers on my property blooming now and they are monsters compared to these little guys!

Posted by: Terry - Seven Sisters Prairie
on: 2016-05-21 16:35:40

Found a few of these plants today. Flowers are still closed very tightly. Will check back in a few days. My first yellow lady slipper find so am very excited.

Posted by: Dave - Stevens County
on: 2017-05-09 08:16:22

This little patch of small yellow ladyslippers are the only ones I have seen in the area. This seems to be the outer fringe of their range.

Posted by: Crystal - Becker county
on: 2017-05-27 23:22:09

Found these on our property while walking near the lake

Posted by: Gail D - Cass County
on: 2017-05-31 07:55:39

I found one unusually small yellow lady's slipper, which I think is var. makasin, along a road next to a remote lake in central Cass County. The slipper itself looked to be 1-1.5 inches at the largest. I'm going back to measure it.

Posted by: Bill R - Deerwood
on: 2017-05-31 10:46:37

numerous groups found on our property and neighboring Hamilton Memorial Forest (Larson Lake)

Posted by: Gail D. - Cass County
on: 2017-06-01 15:41:41

Follow up to May 31 posting - I went back and measured, and the yellow slipper is only 1 inch, so I feel sure it's var. makasin.

Posted by: Darren - Audubon, MN
on: 2017-06-05 15:54:17

Found a patch of small yellow lady slippers growing at the edge of a forest on Little Cormorant Lake, Becker County, MN.

Posted by: Alan B - Kabetogama
on: 2017-06-06 08:35:25

10 years ago they were prominent in the gravel shoulder in Kabetogama, near cannister site. Transplanted small group to similar conditions. Doing well,but have to be protected from deer.

Posted by: Marilyn L - Big Falls area-Pine Island State Forest
on: 2017-06-11 09:55:30

A thrill to see and photograph.

Posted by: norma h - North of MN at Morson, Ontario (summer home)
on: 2017-07-01 16:02:11

I LOVE these dainty mini yellow orchids growing wild by our summer cabin on Lake of the Woods at Morson, Ontario (we have the Showy pink Lady's Slippers and larger Yellow Slippers also). I photograph them and paint them in watercolor. We're from KS but spend summers here...thrilling to see the gorgeous and unique wildflowers, weeds, insects, wildlife, etc. of this area.

Posted by: Randy S - Section 3 Township 107N Range 26W
on: 2017-12-29 13:46:12

Showed up in woodland with dead elm, buckthorn and bur oak. I know not where it came from.

Posted by: Adam H - Moorhead
on: 2018-01-03 18:42:27

I discovered quite a few on the ditch bank at my Dad's place in shotely township 2 miles south of upper red lake. None of us had ever noticed them before and they were down in the tall grass hard to see. As I was leaving the guy that mows the ditches had just mowed that section of the ditch. I couldn't bare to stop and look if they had made it.

Posted by: Gail D - Cass County
on: 2018-06-06 14:25:09

On 6/1 17 I reported finding one var. makasin - small yellow lady slipper. I went back to the site this spring (6/2/18) and now there are seven!

Posted by: Teri - A few miles south of Bigfork Mn
on: 2018-06-18 23:33:51

The plant was in a ditch on a forestry road that is part of the local four wheeler trail. I was delight to see it.

Posted by: collette leonhardt - kelliher
on: 2019-05-16 11:10:53

yellow lady’s slippers. the deer ate the leaves (no flower yet) will the plant grow back this year and bloom?

Posted by: Gail D. - Cass County
on: 2019-06-09 15:10:36

Following up on my 2017 and 2018 posts, the count of var. makasin is up to eight!

Posted by: HvHughes - 10 miles east of Warren MN
on: 2019-06-09 23:46:39

small patch in wet prairie east of Warren MN. Photos taken yesterday.

Posted by: Nancy S - Longville (Cass County)
on: 2019-10-04 15:34:35

We have one large plant on our property and a batch of them growing alongside the county road.

Posted by: Gail D. - Cass County, between Hackensack and Longville
on: 2020-06-12 11:14:53

Following up on my 2017, 18 and 19 comments, my lovely little patch of var. makasin has increased to 13!

Posted by: Rick . - Crosby
on: 2021-05-26 17:14:58

While enjoying and photographing showy lady slippers at a public access in Crow Wing county, I noticed yellow in the grass. I got closer and saw a clump of these lady slippers and there were probably 30 blossoms. They were very tiny, the blossoms were probably not much bigger than my thumbnail. Shortly thereafter, the county or DNR decided to start mowing the grass around the public access and destroyed the colony plus all the Showy lady slippers. Haven't seen any for the past several years in that spot. A shame.

Posted by: Gail D. - Cass County, between Hackensack and Longville
on: 2021-05-30 12:33:52

The patch of var. makasin is just at 11 this year, down by two from 2020, but still hale, healthy and secretive.

Posted by: Todd Ronning - Gooseberry Falls State Park
on: 2021-06-10 20:03:54

A thriving community about 1/2 mile inland from Superior's shoreline.

Posted by: Mike B - South of Brainerd
on: 2023-06-03 09:06:13

Found multiple plants growing near each other in Crow Wing County South of Brainerd.

Posted by: Kenard Puchalski - Whitewater State Park
on: 2023-06-05 19:45:53

Found single beauty on a hike up to Chimney Rock in White water state park in Winona County.

Posted by: Nick Friis - Roseville
on: 2024-05-21 09:31:17

These grow in a wooded area near us. Always tiny in size, the bright yellow really pops!

Posted by: Cindy Norling - Longville
on: 2024-05-28 18:22:56

In May 2022, I noticed a small clump growing near my compost pile. They are self-seeding and spreading along the garage side. The blooms just opened on Memorial Day! I took several photos for my journal. Must enjoy since they will be wilted by end of the week.

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