Cinderella’s Slipper Shop Overflows

Did you hear? Cinderella lost her slipper. And didn’t know where to find it. So . . . Pam M. and I turned into Fairy Godmothers over the course of the weekend in an attempt to help the folktale heroine of our youth.

We began by waving our magic wands . . .

formed in the shape of Indian Cucumber Root flowers suddenly in bloom.

And then we looked everywhere. Do you see the shoe?

No, that’s not it. Ah, but what is that? It’s the nest of an Ovenbird who ran across the forest floor away from the nest, which made us wonder why it was running and not flying–to distract our attention, of course.

We took quick photos and then moved out of momma’s way, continuing our quest.

Do you see the shoe?

No, it wasn’t underneath, but we did celebrate the fact that we’d found the ever common rattlesnake fern with its lacy triangular fronds . . .

and separate beaded fertile stalk. To us, it was hardly common for we rarely see it except in this place. Perhaps we’ll whip the fern into another dress for Cinderella.

Do you see the shoe? No, it isn’t here either, but the leaflets (pinnae) of a Christmas fern could certainly serve as Cinderella’s stockings, bejeweled as they are with the sori’s indusia (the round sheets partially covering each sorus) attached at their centers.

Do you see the shoe? No, it’s not here either, but the hobblebush showed that even in leaves that for some reason were dying, design and color should always be noticed because everything deserves consideration. As we consider Cinderella’s next gown, certainly we’ll remember this.

Do you see the shoe? Maybe we were getting closer. Indeed we were getting closer when we spied this bladder sedge.

Do you see the shoe? We hope one day soon you will for it was while admiring the sedge that we noticed the leafy forms beside it and realized we’d discovered the plant we sought. Perhaps it will flower soon and the golden yellow shoes of our quest will make themselves known.

In the meantime, yesterday morning Pam led a stroll for the Greater Lovell Land Trust.

And this afternoon I did the same for the wait-list crowd.

Each time, we led participants on a stroll through the slipper shop. Cinderella should be pleased with our finds for in every aisle the slippers were available in exactly her size.

And each offered its own variation of the color theme.

There were a few darker ones.

And even several in white.

We were all in awe and had to bow and curtsey (in Covid-19 fashion) for so many choices were there to honor.

Saturday’s group found 53, which became a challenge for today’s group. Their total: 71.

We know Cinderella is holding out for the golden one, but until then her personal slipper shop overflows with possibilities.

Slippers fit for a Princess–including Cinderella

My day was bookmarked by slippers so beautiful that I think Cinderella would trade in her glass shoes for one of these. The question is–which one?

p-ph lady y 14

A young friend who has made it his career to search the woods for orchids and fungi introduced a small group of us to these this morning. I’d met this variety previously, but not in this particular location. We oohed and aahed as we encircled the plant–paying reverence. Though we didn’t curtsy, our respect was tinged with awe.

Members of the Orchid family, lady’s slippers feature the typical three petals in an atypical fashion. The pouch (or slipper or moccasin), called the labellum, is actually one petal–inflated and veined.

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With a purplish tint, the petals and sepals twist and turn offering their own take on a ballroom dance. From every angle, it’s simply elegant.

p-ph lady y 7

Peeking inside, we noticed the runway–meant to attract pollinators.

p-lady 2

Bees follow the runway into the inflated lip, where they quickly discover that nectar is not available. Because of the one-way opening, their exit is not easy.

p-lady 4

In order to escape, they must depart through the back of the lip, where they brush against the stigma and deposit pollen from a nearby flower visited previously.  Simultaneously, as is the way with flowers, the bee picks up a new pollen packet from the anthers to share with other flowers. Due to the lack of nectar, however, bees don’t frequent the species and few lady’s slippers produce fruit. I didn’t see a single bee near this beauty.

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This afternoon I was invited to spend some time visiting friends and exploring their property where pink lady’s slippers bloom prolifically. While the yellow shoe is situated parallel to the ground, the pink shoe dangles downward. Overall, it reminds me of a lady holding out her skirt as she bows before the queen.

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It’s a symbiotic relationship with a fungi that helps the lady’s slipper germinate. And then, it still takes a few years for the germinated seed to produce leaves and about 3-5 years before it produces a flower. Once established, however, it may live for 20-30 years or more.

And do you see what I see? To the right of this particular flower? A woody pod. A seed pod, indeed. And a rare find.

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Despite the lack of pollinators and fruits, a single capsule contains thousands of seeds. The presence of lady’s slippers indicates rich soil.

p-lady 1

So which slipper do you think Cinderella would choose? Though I’ll never consider the pink as ordinary,  I’ve a feeling the golden slipper would be the one that fits her best.

Reaping Rewards

How did I not know this was here? It’s in an old garden bed about twenty feet from the barn. Because of my green pinky, I haven’t been faithful in taking care of this particular garden and in recent years the blackberries have taken over. I reap the reward of blackberries so that’s not a bad thing. But until they’re in season, I don’t pay much attention.

Aha, therein lies the problem. Not paying attention. Not taking the time to notice what is in front of me. But that’s OK, because when I do notice, I love the surprise.


This leaf is what made my heart beat with joy.

On first glance, you may think it is this:

beech teeth

Yes, the ribs extend from the main vein to each tooth. But notice the large dips between teeth in the above example.

double toothed

Back to Exhibit A: While the ribs also extend from the main vein to each tooth;  the difference is in the teeth. In this case, there is a smaller tooth beside each bigger tooth along the leaf’s outer edge (aka double-toothed).

beech teeth and hair

Exhibit B: Not the case.

teeth and assymetrical base

Exhibit A: Do you see the asymmetrical base where the leaf stem (petiole) attaches to the tree?

beech symmetrical

Exhibit B: Symmetrical at the base.


Exhibit A: While both trees have alternate branching and hairy leaves with teeth, another distinguishing factor is that the leaves of Exhibit A are sandpaper coarse.

Those are just a few of the key features to look at when distinguishing between a beech and an elm. I’m not a forester, but this tree appears to be an American Elm. I’m so glad that my green pinky has kept me from managing the garden where it grows.

I grew up just outside the Elm City of New Haven, Connecticut. Today, it is the Elm City in name only as Dutch elm disease played havoc with the beautiful old shade trees that lined the city streets.  It didn’t just happen in CT either.

In Forest Trees of Maine, published in 2008 by the forest service, I read that American Elms occur throughout the state, but good old Dutch elm disease severely reduced the number. We have one. Right here in our yard. 🙂

I’m so glad that I opened my eyes. I’m so glad that I touched the leaf. I’m so glad I reaped another reward this week. 1. Pink Lady’s Slipper in the backyard. 2. American Elm in the side yard. I can’t wait to make another discovery.

I hope you take time to wander about your yard and wonder.