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Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Cypripedium (Venus'-slipper). Lady's Slipper. Moccasin-flower. Orchidaceae. Attractive hardy orchids, often planted in moist cool borders, bogs, and sometimes in rock- gardens.

Stems very short, with a pair of Lvs. close to or near the ground, or long and leafy: Lvs. commonly many- nerved: fls. terminal, 1 to few, withering on the ovary; lateral sepals free, or united nearly or to the apex, the dorsal sepal erect; petals generally narrower, spreading; lip saccate, rarely split down the front; ovary 1- celled, with 3 parietal placentae.— Species about 30, in the north temperate zone. For the greenhouse species formerly included here, see Paphiopedilum, and Phragmipedium.

C. Calceolus, Linn. Fls. single; sepals and petals deep brown; lip yellow, slightly compressed. Eu. R.H. 1892. p. 392. R.B. 21, 210. G. C. III. 46:210.—C. debile. Reichb. f. Lvs. 2, opposite: fls. small, the sepals and petals pale green with a dark brown basal blotch, sometimes brown-striped, the lateral sepals united; lip white, brown-streaked about the mouth. China and Japan. B.M. 8183.— C. elegans, Reichb. f. Sts. 4 in. tall: Lvs. opposite: fl. single, the sepals and petals brown-veined, the lateral sepals united; lip brownish, corrugated. Thibet.—C. guttatum, Swartz. Lvs. 2, alternate: fls. single, white, blotched with purple. N.E. Eu. to N.W. Amer. B.M. 7746.—C. himalaicum. Rolfe. Sts. up to a foot tall: Lvs. 3: sepals and petals brownish, deeper veined: lip brown-purple, many-nerved, Bhotan.—C. irapeanum, Llav. & Lex. Lvs. ovate- lanceolate: fls. several, large, pale yellow, the large lip with some scarlet spots about the mouth. Mex.—C. macranthon, Swartz. Fls. purple, the lip contracted at the mouth. Siberia and N. Asia. R.H. 1877:310. B.M. 2938. G. C. III. 46:212.—C. speciosum, Rolfe. St. leafy: fls. whitish or flesh-colored, veined with rose; lip subglobose. Japan. B.M. 8386.—C. Thunbergii, Blume. Fls. pale purple. G. C. III. 46:228.—C. tibeticum. King. Fls. 3-4 in. across; sepals and petals white, light yellow at apex, veined with maroon-purple; lip maroon-purple. E. Thibet and W. China. B.M. 8070. G. C. III. 39:347; 46:420; 49:403, 410.—C. ventricosum, Hort. Said to be a natural hybrid between C. Calceolus and C. macranthon. G.C. III. 46; 229. George V. Nash.

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Slipper orchids
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Showy lady slipper(Cypripedium reginae)
Showy lady slipper
(Cypripedium reginae)
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Order: Asparagales
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Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Cypripedioideae
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Tribe: Cypripedieae
Subtribe: Cypripediinae
Genus: Cypripedium
L., 1753
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Cypripedium is a genus of 47 species from the orchid family (Orchidaceae) and the sole genus of the subtribe Cypripediinae.

Its members are terrestrial hardy orchids that grow primarily in colder climates of the Northern Hemisphere, in North America, Europe, and Asia. Some grow in the tundra in Alaska and Siberia, which is an unusually cold habitat for orchids. They can withstand extreme cold, growing under the snow and blooming when the snow melts. But, in the wild, most have become rare and close to extinction, due to an ever shrinking natural habitat and overcollection. Only a single plant of Cypripedium calceolus has survived in Britain.

Common names include slipper orchids, Lady's Slippers, mocassin flowers, camel's foot, squirrel foot, steeple cap, Venus' shoes and whippoorwill shoes. The genus has a long history of use, dating back 2500 years to the Far East, where they were used medicinally.



As with most terrestrial orchids, the rhizome is short and robust, growing in the uppermost soil layer. The rhizome grows annually with a growth bud at one end and dies off at the other end. The stem grows from the bud at the tip of the rhizome. Most slipper orchids have an elongate erect stem, with leaves growing along its length. But the Mocassin Flower (Cypripedium acaule) has a short underground stem with leaves springing from the soil. The often hairy leaves can vary from ovate to elliptic or lanceolate, folded along their length. The stems lack pseudobulbs.

The inflorescence is racemose. It can carry one to twelve flowers, as in Cypripedium californicum. But most species have one to three flowers. There are three sepals, with, in most species, the two lateral ones more or less fused. The flower has three acute petals with the third a striking slipper-shaped lip, which is lowermost. The sepals and the petals are usually similarly colored, with the lip in a different color. But variations on this theme occur. The aspect of the lip of different species can vary a great deal. As with all orchids, it is specially constructed to attract pollinators. The flowers show a column with a unique shieldlike staminode. The ovary is 3-locular (with three chambers).


The following genera have been brought into synonymy with Cypripedium:


Comparison between a DNA-analysis and the morphological characteristics in this genus has shown that there is a high degree of divergence between the two, probably due to long periods of isolation or extinction of intermediate forms. The Eurasian species with yellow or red flowers form a distinct group from the North American species with yellow flowers. The Pelican Orchid (Cy pripedium irapeanum) and the California Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium californicum) are probably the first diverging line. They share several similarities with their sister group Selenipedium.

Species and natural hybrids

Cypripedium calceolus
Small White Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium candidum)
Mocassin Flower (Cypripedium acaule)
Greater yellow lady's slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens)
Yellow Lady's-slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum)
  • Cypripedium acaule : Mocassin Flower, Pink Lady's Slipper,Two-leaved Lady's-slipper (C. and E. Canada, NC & E U.S.A).
  • Cypripedium agnicapitatum (Manchuria).
  • Cypripedium × alaskanum (C. guttatum × C. yatabeanum; Alaska).
  • Cypripedium × andrewsii (C. candidum × C. parviflorum var. pubescens) (E Canada, NC & NE U.S.A).
  • Cypripedium arietinum : Ram's-head Lady's-slipper (C & E Canada, NC & NE U.S.A).
  • Cypripedium bardolphianum (China)
    • Cypripedium bardolphianum var. bardolphianum (China)
    • Cypripedium bardolphianum var. zhongdianense (China). Rhizome geophyte
  • Cypripedium calceolus (Lady's Slipper, Woodpecker nuksack, Yellow Lady's Slipper; Europe to Japan)
  • Cypripedium calcicolum (China)
  • Cypripedium californicum (California Lady's Slipper; Oregon, N. California).
  • Cypripedium candidum (Small White Lady Slipper; SE Canada, NC & E U.S.A).
  • Cypripedium × catherinae (C. macranthon × C. shanxiense; Russian Far East).
  • Cypripedium cheniae (China).
  • Cypripedium × columbianum (C. montanum × C. parviflorum var. pubescens; W Canada, NW U.S.A)
  • Cypripedium cordigerum (Heart-shaped Lip Cypripedium; N Pakistan to Himalaya, S Tibet).
  • Cypripedium daweishanense (S.C.Chen & Z.J.Liu) S.C.Chen & Z.J.Liu (2005) (Yunnan, China South-Central)
  • Cypripedium debile (Frail Cypripedium) (Japan, Taiwan, China)
  • Cypripedium dickinsonianum (Mexico (S Chiapas) to Guatemala).
  • Cypripedium elegans (E Nepal to China)
  • Cypripedium fargesii (China)
  • Cypripedium farreri (China)
  • Cypripedium fasciculatum (Brownie Lady's-slipper, Clustered Lady's-slipper; W U.S.A).
  • Cypripedium fasciolatum (China).
  • Cypripedium flavum (Yellow Cypripedium; SE Tibet, SC China)
  • Cypripedium formosanum (Beautiful Cypripedium, Formosa's Lady's Slipper; C Taiwan).
  • Cypripedium forrestii (China).
  • Cypripedium franchetii (Franchet's Cypripedium; C & SC China).
  • Cypripedium froschii (China).
  • Cypripedium guttatum (Spotted Lady's Slipper; European Russia to Korea, Alaska to Yukon).
  • Cypripedium henryi (Henry's Cypripedium; C China).
  • Cypripedium x herae . (C.parviflorum x C.reginae) (Manitoba, Canada)
  • Cypripedium himalaicum (SE Tibet to Himalaya).
  • Cypripedium irapeanum (Pelican Orchid, Irapeao Cypripedium; Mexico to Honduras).
  • Cypripedium japonicum (Japan Cypripedium; China, Korea, Japan).
  • Cypripedium kentuckiense (Kentucky Lady's Slipper, Southern Lady's Slipper, Kentucky Cypripedium; C & E U.S.A).
  • Cypripedium lentiginosum (China).
  • Cypripedium lichiangense S.C.Chen & P.J.Cribb (China (SW Sichuan, NW Yunnan), NE Myanmar).
    • Cypripedium lichiangense var. daweishanense S.C.Chen & Z.J.Liu (now synonym of Cypripedium daweishanense (S.C.Chen & Z.J.Liu) S.C.Chen & Z.J.Liu 2005)
  • Cypripedium ludlowii (SE Tibet).
  • Cypripedium macranthum (Large-flowered Cypripedium; E Belarus to temperate E Asia).
  • Cypripedium malipoense S.C.Chen & Z.J.Liu (Yunnan, China South-Central)
  • Cypripedium margaritaceum (Pearl-white Cypripedium; China)
  • Cypripedium micranthum (China).
  • Cypripedium molle (Mexico).
  • Cypripedium montanum (Large Lady's-slipper, Mountain Lady's-slipper, White Lady's-slipper, Moccasin flower; Alaska to California).
  • Cypripedium morinanthum (Manchuria).
  • Cypripedium neoparviflorum (Manchuriia).
  • Cypripedium palangshanense (China). (rediscovered in 1997 in China).
  • Cypripedium parviflorum Salisb. (Canada, E U.S.A).
    • Cypripedium parviflorum var. parviflorum (Canada, E U.S.A.; rhizome geophyte).
    • Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens (Yellow Lady's-slipper; N. America; rhizome geophyte).
  • Cypripedium passerinum (Franklyn's Lady's-slipper, Small White Northern Lady's-slipper, Sparrow's Egg Lady's-slipper; Alaska to Canada, Montana).
  • Cypripedium plectrochilum (N Myanmar to SC China).
  • Cypripedium pubescens (Greater yellow lady's slipper)
  • Cypripedium reginae Walter : Large White Lady's-slipper, Queen's Lady's-slipper, Showy Lady's-slipper; C & E Canada, NC & E. U.S.A).
  • Cypripedium roseum (Manchuria).
  • Cypripedium rubronerve (China).
  • Cypripedium segawai (EC Taiwan).
  • Cypripedium shanxiense (China to N Japan).
  • Cypripedium sichuanense (China).
  • Cypripedium sinapoides (Manchuria).
  • Cypripedium subtropicum (SE. Tibet).
  • Cypripedium taibaiense (China).
  • Cypripedium tibeticum (Sikkim to C China).
  • Cypripedium × ventricosum (Russia to Korea).
  • Cypripedium wardii (SE. Tibet, China).
  • Cypripedium × wenqingiae (C. farreri × C. tibeticum; China).
  • Cypripedium wumengense (China).
  • Cypripedium yatabeanum (Russian Far East to N & NC Japan, Aleutian Islands to SW Alaska).
  • Cypripedium yunnanense (SE Tibet, China)


  • Phillip Cribb & Peter Green (1997). The Genus Cypripedium (a botanical monograph). Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, Timber Press ISBN 0-88192-403-2
  • Pridgeon, A.M.; Cribb, P.J.; Chase, M.W. & F. N. Rasmussen (1999): Genera Orchidacearum Vol.1, Oxford U. Press. ISBN 0-19-850513-2

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