Pink Lady’s Slipper, aka Feet of Courage: Wild TR

by Guest Contributor

Story and Photos by Tricia Kyzer

No matter where you go, there you are. We are all connected to nature through the geography of where we find ourselves, the experiences we have in our places and the natural community we share that space with.

Welcome to Wild TR.

I would like to introduce you to the wild members of our community. Some you will recognize as good old friends, some you will be surprised by, and some you may find to be a little eccentric. But all of our wild friends have something to teach us about ourselves and our place in this world.

 

In the pines in the pines
Where the sun never shines
And I shiver when the cold wind blows.

 

 

I have a small walking trail through my woods. The forest is old pasture land where more than a hundred years ago the Plumley’s cleared the land with the courage of making a home place and a living from that land. A few steadfast centenarian trees that once provided shade for cattle are scattered through the forest, but most of it is Virginia and Shortleaf pine, brave pioneer species. I love wandering through these pines. Under my pines the sun does shine, in little dapples of shimmering light. The soil is warm and the blanket of needles covering the ground is sweet smelling.

This is where my eyes scan every year around Mother’s Day. I am looking for one of my favorite local flowers, the Pink Lady’s Slipper. The beautiful orchid thrives in lonesome pine forests.

 

 

In my eagerness, I often find myself searching a little too soon. I am rewarded when I spot two pointy leaves pushing upward towards the sun, I make a mental map of where to return in a week. Eventually those leaves will lay flat and, if it is a year for flowering, a bud laden stalk will rise. I love the poetry of the process and find myself just as in awe of the lines and grace of the orchid before it blooms as after.

In fact, the process of flowering began long before I saw the leaves push through. These orchids are dependent on a fungal partner found in the soil to feed its tiny seeds so they can germinate. And once the orchid blooms, it, in turn, feeds the fungal partner.

Lady’s Slippers are not easy to transplant because of the necessity of this relationship. I prefer the woodland walk that leaving them be necessitates anyways.

 

I return to my forest as often as I can, watching the progress until the Lady’s Slipper blooms.

The little pink moccasin dangling so daintily reminds me of the Native American story of courage.

Many villagers were suffering from a terrible sickness that was spreading rapidly. A young maiden went bravely out into the snow and collected the medicine her village needed for healing, placing it carefully in a pouch around her neck. As she journeyed home, the snow was deep and she lost her moccasins. Her feet became cold and bloody but she traveled on courageously until she returned with the healing medicine still safe in her pouch. The following spring, everywhere she had left a bloody footprint behind, a pink moccasin flower bloomed.

Pink Lady’s Slipper is one of our wild local treasures.

Look under open pine or early succession forests.

 

 

May the blooms bring you courage, whatever you are facing, the courage and compassion that is passed on to us through those who have bravely walked before us.

 

 

_______________________

 

See our other Wild TR posts.

Look to the Mountains

The Bloodroot

 

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