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Spotlight on Minnesota’s State Flower: The Showy Lady’s Slipper

Pink and white orchid flowers.

By Ava Schimnowski, Aquatic Plant Management Specialist Individual Placement /AmeriCorps member at Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife


Pink and white orchid flowers.
Lady’s Slipper flowers. Image source: MN Secretary of State

Did you know that the MN state flower, the Showy Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium reginae), is an orchid? On April 16th, we celebrate National Orchid Day, and what better way to honor this occasion than by exploring this elusive wildflower.

The pink and white lady’s slipper, also known as the showy lady’s slipper or queen’s lady slipper, became the official state flower in 1902. Protected by state law since 1925, it is illegal to pick or uproot these flowers.

Showy lady’s slippers are the tallest native northern orchid. The name “reginae,” meaning “queen” in Latin, underscores the historical admiration for this plant.

Map showing growing range of the showy ladys slipper in northeastern MN.
Showy Lady’s Slipper home range in Minnesota. Source: Minnesota DNR


This plant features a robust, hairy stalk with broad leaves. The pink and white flowers have a unique third petal resembling a small shoe, lending the flower its name.

Taking up to 16 years to bloom for the first time, they flower from May to early July, with blossoms lasting up to two weeks.


These orchids thrive in soggy, shady environments. They can be found in spruce and tamarack bogs, swamps, wet meadows, wet prairies, and cool, damp woods.

Longevity and Reproduction

Capable of living for 50 years and growing up to 4 feet tall, they are primarily pollinated by two species of megachilid bees. However, a small European skipper has been observed interfering with this process, potentially affecting the plants’ ability to reproduce. A successful pollination can yield up to 35,000 seeds. It can take up to seven years for their root systems and first leaves to develop in a new location.

A small fuzzy butterfly
European Skipper butterfly. Image source:

Fun fact: Touching the plant’s foliage can cause skin irritation due to its glandular hairs.


The Showy Lady’s Slipper is more than just Minnesota’s state flower; it embodies resilience, patience, and beauty. Despite living in Minnesota my whole life and spending a lot of time in soggy, shady places, I have never seen these elusive flowering plants. Threats to its survival, including habitat destruction and pollution, highlight the importance of conserving its natural habitat.

As we celebrate National Orchid Day, let’s appreciate and protect the Showy Lady’s Slipper, a precious part of Minnesota’s natural heritage.



Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Minnesota Secretary of State

U.S. Forest Service