Minnesota’s state species: Their past, present, and uncertain future

Pink and White Lady’s Slipper (1902/1967)

Minnesota's state flower, the pink and white lady's slipper // Photo courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Minnesota’s state flower, the pink and white lady’s slipper // Photo courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

The pink and white lady’s slipper, or showy lady’s slipper, Cypripedium reginae, is a member of the orchid family. In 1922, the state legislature made it illegal to pick the rare flower, but it wasn’t until 1967 that Governor Harold LeVander finally signed legislation to make it Minnesota’s official state flower.

The pink and white lady’s slipper is mostly found in tamarack and spruce bogs, swamps, wet meadows and prairies, or in cool, damp woodland areas. According to the Minnesota DNR, although the pink and white lady’s slipper has always been uncommon in Minnesota, the flower’s already sparse habitat can be (and has been) further threatened by wetland drainage, road construction, and illegal picking and uprooting. The widespread use of pesticides can also kill the flower, both directly and indirectly, as the pink and white lady’s slipper depends upon pollinators, such as bees, for its reproduction. That means that as pollinator populations continue to plummet, the pink and white lady’s slipper numbers also suffer.

The flower’s best bet for preservation depends on protecting its habitat and encouraging pollinator protection. Only then will future generations be able to enjoy the most secretive of Minnesota’s symbols.

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