Native Lady’s Slipper Orchids in West Virginia

Native Orchid Spotting

Last weekend, my husband and I did a getaway trip at an Airbnb in West Virginia for my birthday! I know that some Cypripediums (Lady’s Slipper Orchid) bloom around this time of year, so I Googled to see if there might be an area near our Airbnb where we could find them. We settled on Trout Pond Recreation Area in George Washington National Forest as a spot to explore. I wasn’t 100% sure we would find any orchids there, but I figured we could have a nice little outing regardless.

We parked by Rockcliff Lake and walked the short trail around the lake. It was an absolutely beautiful morning:

Rockcliff Lake, WV

Near the end of the trail we got to an area that I felt could be where orchids would like to grow. It was a little boggier, there were a lot of pine needles on the ground, and the sunlight was dappled. Lo and behold, I spotted this plant, which I thought might be a Cypripedium:

Orchid in the wild

Shortly after I found that plant, John found more of them but with faded blooms that definitely looked like they could have been Lady’s Slippers!!

Cypripedium with faded bloom
The faded bloom is blurry…I had trouble getting my camera to focus on these.

Here are more:

Wild Cypripedium

And here I am being an excited orchid dork:

Me & a wild lady's slipper orchid

Unrelated but still fun: we saw a black bear on the side of the road during the drive back to the Airbnb! I was THRILLED to have a safe bear sighting on my birthday. It was a very unexpected gift from nature.

After returning home, I googled Cypripediums to see if I could ID the plants we found in the forest. The foliage on the plants we saw didn’t quite match up with what I was seeing online, so I turned to my trusty Instagram followers to see if anyone could ID them. One said it was definitely a lady’s slipper, and another said it’s a Cypripedium acaule. So a shout-out to luckybugorchids1 and justinsorchids for the ID!

Finding native orchids in a West Virginia national forest was a truly fantastic birthday treat. Like I said, I wasn’t totally confident that we’d find any, so when we did it was such a nice surprise. This is now the third type of orchid that I’ve seen in the wild! The first was the Calypso bulbosa (Fairy Slipper Orchid) in Oregon a few years ago, and the second was the Bletilla striata (Chinese Ground Orchid) in the National Arboretum recently, which I posted about on Instagram.

Speaking of which: one of my birthday presents from John was three potted Chinese Ground Orchids! He took me to a garden center in Virginia a couple weekends ago to pick them out. We’re going to plant a couple of them in our yard and keep one in the pot and see how they do. I really hope I’m able to keep these babies happy!

Bletilla striata

Do you ever go hunting for orchids in the wild? If you do, please remember not to dig up or pick wild orchids for your own collection. Doing so in national parks is illegal; outside of national parks, collection regulations this vary by state and whether the species is endangered. Over-collection can lead to species endangerment and disruption of the habitat. So admire wild orchids and take your photos of them, but leave them be in the wild.

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