The showy lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium reginae) is the largest of our Lady’s-slipper. Some say also the most beautiful. This really is the queen of the bog as its scientific name suggests. When I saw it in the Woodridge bog, it was standing out in the bog with pink, yellow, and white finery. The pink can be anything from a deep rose to pale white with a few streaks of pink. She was indeed royally adorned and a humble pilgrim like me could do nothing but pay obeisance.
Sometimes the flower is completely white. This year in particular because it has been so hot and dry many of the plants have refused to produce colour. It must be their form of rebellion. Perhaps the flower is focusing on survival rather than attracting pollinators. Life before beauty? This dry hot year my friends have seen more white flowers than ever before. I have not noticed any.
This is not a large bunch. Just the best I found this day. If you ever see these flowers in a large bunch you might end up falling to your knees. That is the right response. They are that magnificent. They are pollinated by bees who enter at the bottom of the beautiful pouch and then struggle absurdly out the top. It sometimes seems pitiful to see the bee struggling and sliding to get out. Of course, as they fight to get released from the flower they drop their pollen from the last flower visited, performing their important reproductive service to their queen. Yet as is so often the case with great beauty, one must be careful around it. Some people can develop a rash after the touching the hairs on its stems and leaves. As the Sergeant on Hill Street Blues used to warn his police officers every morning before they headed out on their beats, “Be careful out there.” Sometimes, as Yeats said, beauty is like a bended bow.