Cypripedium calceolus, also displays an inflated lip along with three yellowish-brown sepals. The two lateral sepals spiral like locks of curly hair on each side, while the broad-shaped top sepal arches over the bright, canary-colored lip. Although found bordering streams and ravines in both northern and southern Missouri, this species appears to be more abundant in the Ozark region of our state. A smaller variety of the yellow lady’s slipper is found more commonly in western Missouri and has more richly colored brown, lateral, twisted sepals. Princess-like with their porcelain sheen, small white lady’s slipper orchids, Cypripedium candidum, are seldom encountered throughout the state and are under serious threat due to over-collection and disturbance of key habitat sites.
Many orchids depend upon insects for pollination, and their unique flower structures help to ensure pollination success. In the case of the two Missouri species of grass pink orchids, bees play a vital role. Perceiving the flower’s bearded column as anthers, a bee lands to collect pollen and causes the flower’s lip to tip downward. The bee struggles to free itself, and the orchid is successfully pollinated.
Grass pink orchids occur in habitats south of the Missouri River. Calopogon oklahomensis, prairie grass pink, is found primarily on upland prairies in southwestern Missouri. Visitors to Diamond Grove Prairie Conservation Area in Jasper County in May sometimes encounter this beautiful fuchsia-colored plant. Though it doesn’t bloom every year, it is worth looking for.
Swamp grass pink, Calopogon tuberosus, is restricted to wet meadows and Ozark fens of the southeastern part of the state. With a showier appearance than prairie grass pink, its pink blossoms may be rose-pink, white or brilliant magenta.
Twayblade orchids enjoy our Ozark fens and damp woodlands during the cooler spring months of May and June. First discovered in Shannon County by botanist Julian Steyermark, Loesel’s twayblade, Liparis loeselii, is currently a Missouri species of concern. Its Missouri range is limited to just a few southeastern and central Ozark counties, notably Butler, Carter, Madison, Wayne, Shannon and Laclede. Its cousin, the lily twayblade, Liparis liliifolia, is more common and may be observed in wet meadows and moist rocky woodlands in both the Ozarks region and northern portion of the state. A third twayblade species, Listera australis, southern twayblade orchid, was discovered growing in Missouri in April 2009 by members of the Missouri Native Plant Society.
Upon our native prairies, alongside sinkhole ponds and within select