Cypripedium acaule (Stemless Lady's-slipper)

Plant Info
Also known as: Pink Moccasin-flower, Small Pink Lady's-slipper
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry to wet forests, swamps, bogs, acidic soil
Bloom season:May - July
Plant height:6 to 17 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
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] A single flower atop long slender, finely bristly stem with a large, showy sack-like lower lip (the slipper), 1½ to 2½ inches long, inflated with a deep cleft running down the front, covered in fine bristles. Color ranges from pale pink, sometimes nearly white, to rich pink with deeper colored intricate veining. Central flower column is brownish red. Lateral petals are narrow, brownish green with visible striping, twisting slightly, densely bristly on upper-inner surface. Sepals similar in color to petals, broader with the two lateral fused behind the slipper, the third forming a hood above it. A leaf-like bract, green and bristly, about the same size as sepals ascends up and forward over the thickened ovary and upper sepal.

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

[photo of leaves] The 2 basal leaves are finely bristled textured, elliptical, 3½ to 9 inches long, 1 to 3½ inches wide, with many conspicuous parallel veins, and sheathe the bristly hairy stem.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is an ascending capsule that ripens to brown, and contains thousands of tiny seeds.


Many Minnesotan's are somewhat familiar with the Lady's-slippers because our state flower, C. reginae (Showy Lady's-slipper) is one. Some have called Stemless Lady's-slipper the scrotum flower and before anyone is too alarmed, just ask any man who has had a orchidectomy. Many gardeners have long wished to grow orchids in their home flower beds. It is possible and doable and they are increasingly available on the market - albeit expensive. But these are not your mothers petunias and micro-habitat is everything. This particular species is not available and is nearly impossible to establish. It requires shade, well buffered acidic and poor nutrient soils. Wildflowers should never be stolen from a wild place and brought home. If one does that they are a poor excuse for a gardener, and, for orchids in particular, in all likelihood the plant will not survive transplanting anyway.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken at numerous locations on state lands in Aitkin and Beltrami counties


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

Posted by: Mary - St. Louis County
on: 2010-06-10 17:15:09

I found the bloom of this plant on the ground near our yard after we moved a boat that had been overturned. Will the lack of shade kill the plant? I'm tempted to put the boat back! How important is shade to this plant?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2010-06-10 22:18:58

I'm not an expert on growing orchids, but I can tell you that I've seen these out in locations that were more sun than shade.

Posted by: Mary - St. Louis County
on: 2010-06-13 21:48:49

Thanks! Once I knew what I was looking for, I found several others in the yard, not in bloom, but healthy.

Posted by: Lou - Moose Lake, MN
on: 2012-05-31 18:38:35

The woodlands are so exciting. Keeping one's eyes open and seeing little miracles everywhere.

Posted by: JobiWan - Northern Pine County
on: 2016-01-05 19:08:37

So beautiful! Found them once in a tamarack bog 5 years ago and haven't seen them since.

Posted by: Mathew - Hennepin County
on: 2016-02-14 20:21:54

Found in the Quaking Bog in Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis

Posted by: Ken - Crosby Manitou State Park
on: 2016-06-14 11:39:50

Photographed the Stemless next to the boardwalk which circles Bensen Lake nears campsites 20 through 22. Photographed them on June 13, 2016

Posted by: Mary - Northeast near Silver Bay
on: 2016-06-17 17:16:22

In the bog at Tettegouche State Park June 15,2016 Beautiful and flourishing

Posted by: Pam - Border Route Trail, BWCA
on: 2017-05-09 19:30:01

Saw these in the burned out sections of trail near the western side of the Border Route trail during our hike May 2016

Posted by: Rachael - St. Louis County
on: 2017-05-26 10:46:03

Found quite a few on June 16, 2016 along a trail in Cotton--open woods, deep sphagnum moss.

Posted by: Roy N - Duluth
on: 2017-05-30 17:34:17

My father past away in 1986 and he loved the lady slippers, he dug up a couple lady slipper plants in northern Minnesota that were going to be bull dozed down and had real good luck transplanting them. They were the pink ones but he knew were the large yellow lady slippers were which there is very few.

Posted by: Jackie C - angora
on: 2017-06-19 16:44:01

I found one on a gravel ridge on our homestead, in jackpine-mixed fairly young woods, among blueberries. Very beautiful; the only one I've ever seen!

Posted by: Kim R - BWCAW
on: 2017-06-22 17:45:51

Just found these on one portage between Karl's Lake and Long Island Lake. About 6-7 plants scattered in the woods close to the south end of the portage.

Posted by: Jay T - Cascade State Park
on: 2017-06-22 20:27:15

Saw two patches between the trail and the river above the cascades.

Posted by: Pat W - Brainerd Arboretum
on: 2019-06-06 19:13:06

Found these growing in a shady gravelly type area, amongst the low bush blueberry plants. Quite enjoyable and spectacular orchids.

Posted by: Penny R. - Bass Lake Trail - Echo Trail, NE of Ely
on: 2019-06-15 22:20:25

Came upon 3-4 plants in full bloom next to the trail. Sooooo beautiful.

Posted by: Gloria Peterson - south of Lindstrom
on: 2020-03-26 20:15:52

I live in Chisago County. Your distribution map indicates that the only record of C. acaule in this county is pre-1975. I have it in a tamarack bog behind my house. I also have Rose pogonia and Calopogon tuberosus. There most likely are other orchids that I haven't discovered yet.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-03-26 20:51:12

Gloria, the map dots do not represent all populations in a county, just where one was collected and whether it was before 1975. Collections are also more often on public lands than private property so it's likely many populations are not recorded. In any case, it's nice you have orchids close to you. Enjoy!

Posted by: KellyO - Grand Portage State Park
on: 2020-06-12 23:58:57

Came across a pair of these along the trail to Middle Falls on 6/11/20. Thrilling!

Posted by: Tiina E. - Near Lake Vermilion, Tower, MN, St. Louis County
on: 2020-06-19 22:19:51

Several groups of plants in a wooded wetland area near Pike Bay.

Posted by: John Lawrey - Meadowlands-Blue Spruce Rd.
on: 2020-06-21 13:02:51

Saw these beautiful flowers in bloom at the Warren Woessner Memorial Bog Boardwalk. You will be impressed by the beautiful scent of the pines as you admire the flowers from the boardwalk.

Posted by: Kristin Chirhart - north of Lake George MN
on: 2020-06-24 21:33:48

Saw one today on border of piney woods

Posted by: Bradley Lancour - Cass County road 47 east of the Wabedo cemetary
on: 2020-06-24 22:11:43

Last year they mowed the shoulders and killed many specimens. I posted a beautiful cluster of 16-20 blossoms.

Posted by: J Pint - Akeley
on: 2020-07-13 00:21:25

We have several that come up every year at our cabin near Akeley. They are beautiful.

Posted by: Gary - Carlton County
on: 2021-12-21 10:34:44

Many flowering individuals in a mixed tamarack/black spruce swamp on my property. They bloom every year which is something I always look forward to seeing.

Posted by: Moriah Montgomery - St. Louis River Road
on: 2023-06-10 12:35:57

My mom found this one in the back yard of her property on St. Louis River Road, near Midway. Found on the edge of the tree line, between two white cedar trees, right behind her chicken coop! Growing on the south side of a very small north facing slope/ditch bank, in soil that sees periodic saturation due to a nearby stream and seasonal snowmelt.

Posted by: jeffrey Niles - Eagle mountain
on: 2024-06-14 20:45:13

I found a cluster of these near the top of eagle mountain mn!! 8 fully bloomed ones in total.

Posted by: Deane Johnson - Park Rapids
on: 2024-06-22 07:28:35

Bogs to our north had prolific blooms this year. What is the significance of "C. acuale f. acuale" iNat ID vs just the species?

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2024-06-22 09:24:13

Deane, it's pink (f. acuale) vs white (f. albiflorum) flowers.

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