Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
A plant found only in the eastern half of North Dakota, yellow lady's slipper is found across much of temperate Europe, Asia, and North America. In the United States, this species can be found as far south as Texas and Arizona at elevations up to 9,000 ft.
Yellow lady's slipper is a perennial, growing about a foot tall from fibrous roots and rhizomes. Colonies several feet in diameter are sometimes encountered. Plants are covered with short glandular hairs. Each stem bears 3-6 pleated leaves about 6-10 inches long and 2-4 inches wide. One or two large flowers form on each stem. The yellow "slipper," the sac-like lip of a petal, is up to 2 inches long. The other petals and the sepals are yellowish, greenish, or reddish-brown and up to 4 inches long. Fruit is an ellipsoid capsule about 1-1/2 inches long.
Look for yellow lady's slipper in moist places in tallgrass prairie, especially near trees or shrubs along lakeshores. Plants likely will not tolerate heavy grazing as the roots would be easily damaged by trampling in the soft soils that the plant prefers. The dried roots and rhizomes of this species are mentioned as nerve stimulants and antispasmodics.
Yellow lady's slipper is a member of the cosmopolitan orchid family (Orchidaceae), the name derived from the Greek orchis, "a testicle," in allusion to the round tubers found on some species. The orchid family is the largest in the world, with about 200,000 known species. Most orchids depend on soil fungi for part of their food, and are mostly pollinated by insects. The generic name was incorrectly Latinized from Cypris, "Venus," and pedilon, "shoe." The specific epithet calceolus means "a little shoe" in botanical Latin. The preeminent Swedish naturalist Carl von Linne (Linnaeus) described yellow lady's slipper for science in his monumental Species Plantarum of 1753.