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The state flower of Minnesota is the pink and white lady's slipper, also called showy lady's slipper. A member of the orchid family, the flower is known scientifically as Cypripedium reginae. It is found throughout Minnesota where conditions are favorable for it, but is certainly not a common flower anywhere in the world. Pink and white lady's slipper tend to stand out because of its bright shades of pink, red, and white. It became the state flower of Minnesota in 1902.
Pink and white lady's slipper was actually the second plant to be named the state flower of Minnesota. In 1893, Cypripedium calceolus, also called moccasin flower or lady's slipper, was named the state flower. When it came to public attention that this plant is not a native of Minnesota, a campaign began to replace it. In February of 1902, the state legislature named the pink and white lady's slipper the state flower of Minnesota in its place.
The plant is not considered common in any region, though it can be found from the Atlantic seaboard of both Canada and the U.S. as far south as North Carolina. Its range stretches west to the Mississippi with isolated populations found in North Dakota. The flower's preferred setting is wet prairies and woodlands, including bogs and swamps. Though it requires a high level of moisture in the soil, it also prefers a setting in full sun.
This single stemmed plant grows up to 2 feet (about 61 cm) tall. One to three flowers are found on each plant. Each flower has an elongated pouch-like lower part, the slipper, with three white petals arranged like a canopy above it. Most flowers have red or pink slippers; some have both, with one color shading into the other. The 3 to 4 inch (about 7.5 to 10 cm) blooms are long-lasting, remaining showy for as long as three weeks.
Leaves are oval and have pronounced creases running their length from stem to tip. They have a hairy surface and sometimes cause a skin rash when handled. One plant produces up to a half million tiny seeds a year. The seeds are so small and numerous that they may seem like powder.
Even though one plant can live as long as 100 years, they do not grow quickly and populations are never large. Since 1925 it has been against Minnesota state law to pick or collect either flowers or whole plants. Over much of its range, pink and white lady's slipper is considered rare, endangered or threatened.