Cypripedium passerinum
sparrow’s-egg lady’s slipper

Alaska Wildflowers | White

<i>Cypripedium passerinum</i> <br>sparrow’s-egg lady’s slipper

Cypripedium passerinum
sparrow’s-egg lady’s slipper

Common Names

cypripède oeuf-de-passereau
sabot-de-la-vierge des oiseaux
Franklin’s lady’s slipper
northern lady’s slipper
small white lady’s slipper
sparrowegg lady’s slipper
sparrow’s-egg lady’s slipper
white lady’s slipper

Synonyms

Cypripedium passerinum var. minganense

Subspecies

none

Genus: Cypripedium
Family: Orchidaceae
Order: Asparagales
taxonomic heirarchy

Etymology

The genus name Cypripedium is derived from the Greek “Κύπρις” (Kypris), an epithet of Aphrodite, and “πέδιλον” (pedilon), meaning “slipper” or “shoe.” This refers to the distinctive pouch-like labellum of the orchid flower, which resembles a slipper or shoe.

The epithet passerinum comes from the Latin “passerinus,” meaning “of or relating to sparrows.” This likely refers to the flower’s small size or possibly its coloration, which may have been thought to resemble a sparrow’s egg.



The common name “sparrow’s-egg lady’s slipper” is, more or less, a direct translation of the scientific name into more familiar terms. It combines the reference to sparrows from the specific epithet with the slipper-like shape of the flower characteristic of the genus. The “egg” part of the name alludes to the rounded shape of the labellum and its coloration, which can be pale and speckled, reminiscent of a sparrow’s egg.

Duration – Growth Habit

Perennial – Forb/herb

Identification and Information

Vegetative Morphology:

Cypripedium passerinum, commonly known as sparrow’s-egg lady’s slipper, is a perennial herb in the orchid family that grows from slender rhizomes with coarse, fibrous roots. The erect stems are 10-38 cm tall (occasionally up to 50 cm). The plant has 3-7 alternate leaves along the stem, which are sheathing at the base and clasp around the stem. These leaves are elliptic-lanceolate or ovate-lanceolate, with sparse, long hairs.

Reproductive Morphology:

The inflorescence typically consists of a single terminal flower, though occasionally there are two. Like all orchids, the flower is bilaterally symmetrical. It has three sepals: the uppermost sepal forms a hood over the lower lip and is green and leaf-like, while the two lateral sepals are lighter green or white. The two lateral petals are white, broadly linear to oblong, and approximately the same length as the lower lip. The lower lip (petal) is inflated, egg-shaped, and white, with faint purple spots inside. The fruit is a hairy ellipsoid capsule, 2-3 cm long, containing hundreds of tiny seeds.

Sparrow’s egg lady’s slipper can be distinguished from spotted lady’s slipper (C. guttatum) when in fruit by the number of leaves, as spotted lady’s slipper only has two.


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Uses

For information only (typically historical) – I take no responsibility for adverse effects from the use of any plant.

While Cypripedium guttatum has no specific documented uses, other species within the Cypripedium genus have been traditionally used for various purposes, ranging from medicinal to ornamental.

See documented uses of others in the genera in the Native American Ethnobotany Database search string: Cypripedium.


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Distribution and Habitat

Map data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), NatureServe Explorer, and Kew

Cypripedium passerinum, commonly known as sparrow’s egg lady’s slipper, is native to northern North America. It is found in Alaska, much of central and western Canada, and extends south into Montana.

This orchid species thrives in mossy forests, tundra, wet coniferous forests, and thickets, particularly near stream banks.

Classification

RankScientific Name (Common Name)
ClassEquisetopsida
SubclassMagnoliidae (Angiosperms)
SuperorderLilianae (Monocots)
OrderAsparagales
FamilyOrchidaceae (orchid family)
SubfamilyCypripedioideae
TribeCypripedieae
SubtribeCypripediinae
GenusCypripedium (lady’s slipper)
SpeciesCypripedium passerinum

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References and Further Reading

Guidebook

Pratt, V. E. (1989). Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers: Commonly Seen Along Highways and Byways (p. 20). Alaskakrafts, inc.

Johnson, D., Kershaw, L., & MacKinnon, A. (2020). Plants of the Western Forest: Alaska to Minnesota Boreal and Aspen Parkland (3rd ed., p. 90). Partners Publishing. ISBN 978-1772130591.

Classification and Taxonomy

Canadensys. (n.d.). Cypripedium passerinum. Retrieved July 7, 2024, from https://data.canadensys.net/vascan/taxon/6863?lang=en

ITIS. (n.d.). Cypripedium passerinum. Retrieved July 7, 2024, from https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=43545

USDA PLANTS Database. (n.d.). Cypripedium passerinum. Retrieved July 7, 2024, from https://plants.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=CYPA5

Uses

Native American Ethnobotany Database. (n.d.). Cypripedium passerinum. Retrieved July 7, 2024, from http://naeb.brit.org/uses/search/?string=cypripedium

Map and Distribution

GBIF. (n.d.). Cypripedium passerinum. Retrieved July 7, 2024, from https://www.gbif.org/species/2820463

NatureServe Explorer. (n.d.). Cypripedium passerinum. Retrieved July 7, 2024, from https://explorer.natureserve.org/Taxon/ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.136292/Cypripedium_passerinum

Plants of the World Online. (n.d.). Cypripedium passerinum. Retrieved July 7, 2024, from https://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid.org:names:625897-1

Description and Information

Flora of North America. (n.d.). Cypripedium passerinum. Retrieved July 7, 2024, from http://floranorthamerica.org/Cypripedium_passerinum

Hultén, E. (1968). Flora of Alaska and Neighboring Territories: A Manual of the Vascular Plants (1st ed.) (pg. 317). Stanford University Press.

Ecological Atlas of Denali’s Flora. (n.d.). Cypripedium passerinum. Retrieved July 7, 2024, from https://ecologicalatlas.uaf.edu/index.php/browse-plant-species/atlas-page/?nps_id=641

E-Flora BC. (n.d.). Cypripedium passerinum. Retrieved July 7, 2024, from https://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Cypripedium%20passerinum&redblue=Both&lifeform=7

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