Yellow Ladyslipper

Ojibway: Makizin
Latin: Cypripedium Calceolus L.

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Common Names

Squirrel’s shoes

Description

The Yellow Lady’s slipper has broad, parallel veined leaves along the stem, usually between three and five total, which can be up to 20 cm (8 in.) long. The yellow lady’s slipper can grow the heights of 10-71 cm (4-28 in.).

Flowers

Yellow lip petal 2.5-5 cm (1-2 in.) long; flowering in May to June.

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Leaves

Three to five bright green leaves, strongly ribbed, oval shaped.

Height

15-80 cm high.

Habitat

Rich deciduous woods. Further north it occurs in similar habitat but may also occur in boggy or swampy areas (where it also occasionally found in the south). The plant is rarely found in clayey soils, and shows a distinct preference for areas of limestone.

Range

Nova Scotia to Minnesota and south to New England along the mountains to Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Missouri.

Discussion

The flowers resemble those of the other Lady’s slippers in that they have petals which form a pouch resembling a slipper or moccasin that allows insects to enter, but only to exit through the rear where they collect pollen in the process. The nerve root has a high reputation for its effect on the nervous system. The root is a pungent bitter-sweet herb with an unpleasant odour, it is antispasmodic, diaphoretic, sedative, tonic. It is taken internally in the treatment of anxiety, nervous tension, insomnia, depression and tension headaches. The active ingredients are not water soluble and so the root is best taken in the form of a tincture. The plant is said to be the equivalent of Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) in its effect as a nervine and sedative, though it is less powerful. The roots are harvested in the autumn and are dried for later use. In the interests of conservation, it is best not to use this herb unless you can be certain it was obtained from a cultivated source. An Ojibway legend tells of a little Ojibway girl lost outside during a bitterly cold winter. Searchers found a Lady’s Slipper blooming in the snow, where the little girl was last seen. The Lady Slipper has became the model for the Ojibway Moccasin based on this legend.