The Jewel Of Minnesota Woodlands… The Showy Lady’s Slipper…Our State Flower

Ralph LaPlant

Minnesota was the first state to chose a state flower and the showy lady’s slipper is the only orchid selected nation-wide. Its survival is in part because it grows in swamps where man rarely treks. Ralph LaPlant Photo
Minnesota was the first state to chose a state flower and the showy lady’s slipper is the only orchid selected nation-wide. Its survival is in part because it grows in swamps where man rarely treks. Ralph LaPlant Photo

Interestingly, Minnesota was the first state to choose a state flower. It was decided, back in 1893, that Minnesota should have a floral emblem at its exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair.
    The Ladies’ Auxiliary of Minnesota’s World’s Fair Commission prepared a bill, that would make the lady’s slipper the state flower, to the Legislature. A petition bearing numerous signatures was presented and on February 3rd of 1893, the bill was passed. The original bill had to be changed, however, due a technicality… the original flower accepted as the state flower was not native to the state. On February 19th of 1902, the official designation was changed to Cypripedium reginae… the showy lady’s slipper.
    The showy lady’s slipper is the only wild orchid chosen as a state flower. The closest Latin interpretation I could find is “the Queen’s Venus shoe.”
    The flower is shaped like a large, balloon-like slipper. It is pure white, washed with deep pinkish-magenta markings. It is often over two inches deep with lateral petals, which are also white.

    Lady’s slippers grow in low, swampy areas and can grow to three feet tall. When they bloom in late June or early July, there are often two slipper-like flowers. There have been sightings of three and rarely four flowers on a stem.
    Minnesota has other lady’s slippers: the yellow and the small white. The yellow is fragrant, unlike the showy, and has two sizes: small and large.
    In the spring of 1925, the Minnesota Legislature passed a bill, which soon became law, that essentially says that no person within the state shall buy, sell, offer or expose for sale, the state flower… or that any species of lady’s slipper be dug, plucked, cut, pulled, or gathered in any manner. This law was passed due to the large number of collectors of the flower.
Possibly due to the fact they often grow in hard-to-get-at locations where man rarely treks, the flower has survived.