How Much Do You Know About the Ram’s Head Lady’s Slipper Orchid? Species at Risk Series
Species at risk are animals and plants in danger of disappearing from Canada’s wild unless we act quickly.
This month, we’re exploring the stunning ram’s head lady’s slipper orchid.
Otherwise known as cypripedium arietinum, this beautiful orchid can be found in Gatineau Park.
We work to protect Gatineau Park and the 118 rare or endangered species calling its wilderness home. This includes the ram’s head lady’s slipper, which has the status of rare within the species at risk categories.
What do they look like?
The front of the flower, known as the labellum, is quite distinct in its pointed shape and white colour with red or purple vein-like markings. This delicate portion of the orchid is presented in the middle of three petals, and a few more leaves may be found near the flower or on the stem.
This rare perennial can grow up to 4-16 inches.
Where can they be found?
The ram’s head lady’s slipper orchid grows in coniferous or mixed forests, mossy bogs, and swamps. You can often find them near juniper, cedar, or spruce trees, blooming in May and June.
The orchid can be found as far west as Saskatchewan, stretching down to Nova Scotia. In the US, it can be seen in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Connecticut where it’s considered extirpated.
What threatens the orchid’s survival?
Habitat loss linked to human activity, such as logging or construction, is the main threat to the orchid’s survival.
This orchid is also quite delicate and difficult to cultivate, rarely surviving transplantation from one location, such as a garden, to the wild.
What can be done?
At risk animals and plants need space to thrive and our communities need healthy biodiversity.
The ram’s head lady’s slipper orchid calls Gatineau Park home. You can support our work in the park and help protect the orchid’s natural habitat.
We understand the desire to explore every area of parks, but it’s important to stay on designated trails. These orchids can be injured by hikers, off-leash dogs, vehicles, and other disturbances to their soil or surrounding area.
Competition with exotic plant species can also pose a risk. Consider using plants native to your own region in your home gardens to avoid them escaping into the wild and posing a threat to the ram’s head lady’s slipper’s habitat.
This blog is part of our monthly series highlighting species at risk in the Ottawa Valley. Next month, we’re looking at the small songbird, the cerulean warbler!