“Rare in Yosemite, and now confined to hidden sites where plants have not been subjected to detrimental flower gathering.” – An Illustrated Flora of Yosemite National Park, Stephen J. Botti.
These crazy elegant flowers!
Searching for them was quite the adventure. We followed the most incredible treasure map, hand-drawn for us by a generous and knowledgeable local. We identified the mysterious landmarks, counted out the paces, scanned the forest floor. When we finally discovered them, the white slippers shining like lanterns, I imagined the dancing fairies startled into leaving their shoes behind, still suspended a foot or two off the ground. Certainly magic must be involved, protecting them from the wicked flower-gatherers. Then we realized to our dismay that they were being fiercely guarded by a blood-thirsty swarm of mosquitoes. We were lucky not to be carried away, and paid in blood and welts for the few minutes we lingered to enjoy and take a handful of pictures. The real treasure though, is the memory of sharing a little space with these rare and secretive plants.
And in case you need more reasons to be protective of these flowers:
- C. montanum is listed on the California Native Plant Society Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants
- This species hasn’t been well-studied, but other members of the same family (C. calceolus and C. fasciculatum) can take more than 12 years to flower.
- Spring growth comes from buds that have survived the winter season. Unlike most other plants, if these are damaged or destroyed, Cypripedium doesn’t recover immediately. Sometimes it can take multiple years for them to bloom again, and in some cases the entire plant dies.