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Coastal Journal, Curt ChipmanBTLT in the News, “Spring inspiration at Midcoast land trusts from Brunswick to Lincoln County”
Each spring, I wait for the emergence of our native orchid, the lady’s-slipper. (Maine’s slippers come in four varieties, the most common of which is the pink lady’s-slipper.) In particular, I watch a nearby spot of leafy duff a few feet from a usual oak, and each year (so far), last fall’s leaves get elbowed aside and the flower’s green leaves rise and spread some degrees around a central stalk that then grows straight up. The white bud to become the pink slipper rides the stalk.
This year, in mid-May (same as last), two pink slippers began their ascent into the lit world; one rose slotted precisely through a hole in an old oak-leaf, which served to bundle the leaves. Still, the stalk nosed up between them, the bud appeared, and yesterday, the slipper arrived, still a shy pale white, hiding its pink tones. I admired it for some minutes; I also tore off the oak-leaf collar to allow springy expansion.
This is an everyday miracle for our woodlands, a sort of exhalation after a winter of held breath, and I find it impossible to not feel lifted by it, buoyed slightly with my own spring.
They are rare enough to merit this request by Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry: “Lady’s-slippers require highly specific habitats in order to grow, thus collecting lady’s-slippers, even the common ones, is discouraged.” Still, to our south in the Town Common, some of the woods grow rife with these rising slippers, and they will occupy my peripheral vision as I walk or shuffle my daily miles there. Counting slippers, imagining the pulse that sends them up, is a favorite spring tic.
May 23 flower count: 93 lady’s-slippers (92 pink and 1 white variation); 10 painted trilliums.