CPC Plant Profile: Southern Lady's-slipper
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Plant Profile

Southern Lady's-slipper (Cypripedium kentuckiense)

Photo Credit: Joe Liggio
Description
  • Global Rank: N/A
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Orchidaceae
  • State: TX, VA, AL, AR, GA, KY, LA, MS, OK, TN
  • Nature Serve ID: 140924
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 06/25/2002

The Southern ladys slipper orchid is a tall, stately perennial herb with the largest flowers of any Ladys slipper (i.e., Cypripedium) known. Once seen in flower it is never forgotten. The stems are erect, 3.5-9.7 dm tall with 2-9 alternate ovate to ovate lanceolate leaves to 15 cm wide by ~24 cm long with 9-14 conspicuous parallel veins. Underground rhizomes allow the plant to undergo periods of dormancy. Flowers, 1 or 2, are terminal with a large, cream-colored (rarely white or yellow) lips, sepals and petals yellow-green, heavily striped, spotted or mottled with maroon to entirely maroon (maroon pigment lacking in some members of at least one Arkansas population). Lip 30-52 mm deep by 41-65 mm long and with a dorsal opening that is large and round (sometimes contracted and narrow in some Arkansas populations) and usually about two-thirds the size of the total lip circumference. Dorsal sepals 24-65 mm wide by 61-126 mm long. Synsepal 12-40 mm wide by 55-103 mm long. Lateral petals 0.7-1.5 mm wide by 84-156 mm long. Staminode more or less ovate, 10-18 mm wide by 17-24 mm long, yellow, often with a few irregularly scattered maroon spots. There are usually some irregular teeth on the rim of the opening into the lip and often some evaginated angular bumps on the vein on the lower part of the lip. There are maroon lines on the veins inside the lip (an exception shown in one Arkansas population). The lip is always very deep in relation to length and does not extend shoe-like beyond the lip opening as it does in the various other yellow Ladys slippers species. The orifice takes up most of the top of the lip. The dorsal sepal hangs over the lip like a canopy rather than erect as in C. parviflorum and C. pubescens and the pedicel is very long (12.7-20.3 cm) compared to the shorter pedicelled C. parviflorum and C. pubescens. Basal leaves are usually very broad-ovate. Fresh plants have a raspberry odor for several days, then becoming musty-smokey in odor and eventually odorless. The elliptical fruit is a capsule about 3-6 cm long and can produce thousands of minute seeds (Reed, 1981; Medley, 1985; Liggio and Liggio, 1999; Correll and Johnston, 1979). FLOWER PHENOLIOGY: Blooms April to June and capsules develop through the summer months.

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Updates
  • 09/07/2020
  • Reproductive Research

Studies concerning the reproductive biology and ecology for the genus are documented (T.N. Kaye, 1999; Severs and Lang, 1999).

  • 09/07/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Researchers at the Seed Conservation Department, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK and others are investigating methods of long-term storage of terrestrial orchid seed with their fungal symbionts and other cryopreservatives (Pritchard, et al, 1999; C.B. Wood, H.W. Pritchard and A.P. Millar, 2000; H.W. Pritchard and P.T. Seaton, 1993).

  • 09/07/2020
  • Propagation Research

The rhizomes of some terrestrial orchids have the ability to remain dormant underground for up to 4 years (Kaye, T.N. 1999). Dormancy is broken in response to more favorable conditions, possibly for example, from formation of gaps by fallen trees (Liggio, 2003). Also, C. kentuckiense may be a colonizing plant because C. kentuckiense appears to respond positively in some situations of low levels of disturbance. Dormancy is thought to occur in response to flowering in some terrestrial orchids (Kaye, T.N. 1999). However, those populations that experience direct or indirect habitat destruction, alteration of erosion and hydrology of sites such as from certain timber cutting practices and development, are no doubt extirpated.

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Cypripedium kentuckiense occurs in a somewhat narrow range from the Cumberland Plateau of eastern Kentucky and northern Tennessee with outlier populations in central Georgia and Coastal Plain Virginia, west to the Interior Highlands of Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma, and south to the Gulf Coastal Plain of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. Its moderate range is somewhat misleading as most sites/populations are quite small; approximately 100-200 occurrences are believed extant, but less than 30 of these may good viability. Collection is a significant threat with many incidents of poaching documented. Other threats include herbivory by white-tailed deer, disturbance by feral hogs, road construction, and habitat destruction due to logging, pine agriculture, and reservoir construction. This species' habitat has been considerably reduced from its historical extent. Believed to be moderately declining in Arkansas and significantly declining in Kentucky; these two states contain the majority of extant occurrences. However, occurrences in some other parts of the range appear to be stable.

David C. Berkshire
  • 01/01/2010

C. kentuckiense is adversely affected by: Direct or indirect habitat destruction erosion and alteration of hydrology of sites, such as from certain timber cutting practices (like clearcutting) agriculture and development Over collection by plant

David C. Berkshire
  • 01/01/2010

Estimates of 57 sites in seven states with a known total of 2,683 plants have been reported (Medley, Max E. 1985; National Forest reports, 1950-1989). Certain populations are reported presumed exterminated because those populations have not been visible during field surveys. However, because populations of various terrestrial orchids fluctuate greatly from year to year to the point of not appearing at all some years, repeated surveys to confirm presence or absence are required (Seevers and Lang, 1999). The rhizomes of some terrestrial orchids have the ability to remain dormant underground for up to 4 years (Kaye, T.N. 1999). Dormancy is broken in response to more favorable conditions, possibly for example, from formation of gaps by fallen trees (Liggio, 2003). Also, C. kentuckiense may be a colonizing plant because C. kentuckiense appears to respond positively in some situations of low levels of disturbance. Dormancy is thought to occur in response to flowering in some terrestrial orchids (Kaye, T.N. 1999). However, those populations that experience direct or indirect habitat destruction, alteration of erosion and hydrology of sites such as from certain timber cutting practices and development, are no doubt extirpated.

David C. Berkshire
  • 01/01/2010

The horticultural industry is exploring propagation methods by means of tissue culture and division of rhizomes for this species and other members of the genus. Researchers at the Seed Conservation Department, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK and others are investigating methods of long-term storage of terrestrial orchid seed with their fungal symbionts and other cryopreservatives (Pritchard, et al, 1999; C.B. Wood, H.W. Pritchard and A.P. Millar, 2000; H.W. Pritchard and P.T. Seaton, 1993). Studies concerning the reproductive biology and ecology for the genus are documented (T.N. Kaye, 1999; Severs and Lang, 1999).

David C. Berkshire
  • 01/01/2010

Management studies for other species in the genus (T.N. Kaye, 1999; Severs and Lang, 1999) can be applied to management of C. kentuckiense. Management includes protection of forest habitat, avoidance of clear-cutting, practicing controlled burning and regulation of livestock grazing. Surveys for existing and new populations are necessary.

David C. Berkshire
  • 01/01/2010

Protect remaining forest habitat Avoid clear-cutting Management of burning Management of livestock grazing Seed banking and propagation Field surveys Control collection from wild populations

David C. Berkshire
  • 01/01/2010

Seed banking and propagation

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Nomenclature
Taxon Cypripedium kentuckiense
Authority C. F. Reed
Family Orchidaceae
CPC Number 1235
ITIS 501942
USDA CYKE2
Common Names Southern ladys-slipper | Kentucky Ladyslipper | Kentucky lady's slipper | southern lady's slipper
Associated Scientific Names Cypripedium kentuckiense | Cypripedium daultonii | Cypripedium kentuckiense | Cypripedium kentuckiense f. summersii
Distribution This species seems to have two centers of abundance, one in the Appalachian Plateaus of Kentucky and extreme northern Tennessee, and one in the Coastal Plain, Interior Low Plateaus and Interior Highla
State Rank
State State Rank
Alabama S1
Arkansas S3
Georgia S1
Kentucky S1S2
Louisiana S1
Mississippi S1
Oklahoma S2
Tennessee S2
Texas S1
Virginia S1
Habitat

In Kentucky and Tennessee C. kentuckiense occurs in mesic forests on stream floodplains that are annually inundated by high water. In the southwestern center (Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas) of its range, the habitat is more variable and C. kentuckiense may occur on mesic to dry-mesic forests on floodplains, ravine slopes, acid seep forests (Arkansas) and rarely in slash pine flats (Louisiana). In most of the range where C. kentuckiense and C. pubescens are sympatric, the former will be found in floodplains while the latter will be found in slope forests. In Arkansas C. kentuckiense can also be found in slope forests. Populations in Georgia occur on forested springhead seeps in sandy soils (Cammack, S., 2000; Georgia Natural Heritage Program, 2003).

Ecological Relationships

Bees attracted by the scent result in the cross-pollination of Cypripedium orchids. Viability of Cypripedium seeds is variable and dispersal is by water or air (Seevers and Lang, 1999). Seed germination in orchids requires the early association of the germinating seed with specific soil fungi (H.J. Muir, 1989). The successful growth of orchids requires this continuous association with specific soil fungi.

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Bees
Bees Confirmed Pollinator Link

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