What is Cypripedium?

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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 22 March 2019
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Cypripedium is a genus of orchids that contains close to 50 different species. Most of these species live in cool conditions, which makes them largely unique from other orchid plants. There are numerous common names for the genus, including Camel’s foot and Venus’ shoes. Most species of the genus contain no more than three flowers, though some may contain up to 12. Wild Cypripedium plants are now relatively rare, with many species under threat of extinction.

Most species of Cypripedium live in cold areas of the Northern Hemisphere. The plants are often found in areas of open woodland, including in such countries as England. They can, however, be found in more extreme areas, including high up in the Alps. Some species are able to grow in the tundra of Siberia, unlike many other species of orchid.

The Cypripedium, or lady’s slipper, is amongst the most famous flowering plants, with its use being recorded more than 2,000 years ago. This is largely due to the plant’s attractive appearance. Each plant is perennial in nature, which means it flowers each year. Typically, the plants will grow to around 23 inches (approximately 60 cm) in height, and each stem of the plant will have up to three leaves.


There are several reasons for the potential extinction of many Cypripedium species. The first is the reduction in suitable environment for the plants, probably as a result of global warming. Another is that many species are heavily collected, which makes breeding difficult. It is not known how many examples of each species remain, and it’s possible that some may be locally extinct in certain countries. There are some locations, such as Greece, where the plants are already known to be extinct.

Some of the most commonly used examples of the genus include the Pink Lady’s Slipper and Pelican orchid. Many species are used for aesthetic purposes, however, as most are beautiful plants with colorful flowers. The plants also are sometimes used in traditional herbal medicine and have a long history of being used for this purpose in China.

Growing Cypripedium plants can be rewarding, due to their attractive appearance, but is relatively difficult compared to other orchids. Typically, the plants need to be placed in the shade, although some sunlight is needed for the plants to be healthy. A cool area is also a requirement for growing the plants effectively, as this mimics the plant’s natural environment.



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