Showy Lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium reginae) in early morning light in Eshqua Bog, Hartland, Vermont.
Eshqua Bog, which is really a fen, is a wonder of blooming Showy Lady's Slippers in June. I shot this one in the early morning light. If you live nearby, it is well worth the trip to walk out on the boardwalk and see hundreds of orchids flowering.
Gems of the fen to me, but just a tease and a trap for pollinators. There is no edible reward for their pollinating help. The beautiful pigmentation and scent entices insects to enter the flowers down through the labellum, the irregularly shaped petal that forms the “slipper”, of the Showy Lady’s Slippers. The insects become trapped in the slipper without any nectar and soon begin to move around wildly trying to find an escape route. Pollen grains are stuck on structures called pollinia. These are behind a shield near the opening called the staminode. When the insect enters the flower, it cannot come into contact with the flower’s own pollen. This prevents self-pollination. To escape, the insect exerts pressure on the stigma creating a larger escape hatch. If it has pollen grains on its body from a previous flower, they are likely to stick to the stigma. The only passage to freedom from there is past the pollinia where a sticky mass of pollen will adhere to its body on the way out. With luck, it will visit another Lady’s Slipper to transfer the pollen. But after a few visits to these flowers, they usually catch on that there is no nectar reward inside the flower and begin to avoid Lady’s Slipper flowers. This might explain the low seed set for these orchids.