Wildflowers, Plants and Ferns, Pacific Northwest
These delicate pink and white western lady slipper flowers are a common orchids found along the carpeted floor of the Pacific Northwest forests. They have a single flower that has several pink, twisted, sepals and petals forming a crown. The flower has a small, pink upper lip above a large lower lip. Looking into the flower, the lower lip is the largest part of the flower. It has deep purple stripes near its base, with some purple spots towards the tip. The purple spots are set off against a pink backdrop. The spots, and the pink coloration fade to white as the lip nears its outer margin. There is a single, basal, egg shaped or elliptical leaf that slowly tapers to a point.
Western Lady Slipper orchids are circumpolar in range and found across most of Canada from British Columbia and Alberta, east to Newfoundland, and south to California, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.
Despite their pretty appearance, they do not contain any nectar to reward inquisitive and hungry bees. Their bright color attracts the bees anyway. The bees visit, and while not rewarded, will visit several flowers before learning to avoid them. By this time, they have cross pollinated a few of the orchids.
Luckily for the fairy slipper, there are always enough novice bees that have not yet learned that the flower does not offer any nectar reward.