Pink Lady Slipper Blooming Cohort

The wild black cherry trees bloomed this past week and in profusion. Their tubular drifts of little white blooms are now missing petals and hanging downward due to all the wind and rain they’ve experienced in the last few days.

Meanwhile, the pink lady slippers are full open in the woodlands.

Pink Lady Slipper
Pink Lady Slipper

Without the woods these pretty in pink flowers will die off. There’s something about the forest habitat that they need to survive. Those that do get transplanted to gardens will die out, unfortunately. Even the best gardeners will have a tough time providing all that the forest does to keep these beauties happy.

They’re interesting flowers with the irregular shape of a shoe or moccasin and lots of veining on the outer lips or petals.

I always used to think about the Pink Lady Slipper wildflower at Mother’s Day. Some years I’d be early and other years I’d be late depending on the calendar and the weather. This year the lady slippers weren’t quite in full bloom when Mother’s Day came and went.

Instead of using Mother’s Day to mark when these orchids should be blooming, I’ll be looking for the wild black cherry trees and blackberries to be in bloom. Chances are good that other plants experiencing the actual weather circumstances will help to predict annual bloom times of local plants much better than a holiday that has no set date from year to year.

To find one plant when it’s in bloom we can use other more common plants in the vicinity as markers to help locate them.

Plants that bloom at the same time are considered to be members of a ‘blooming cohort’. Many different species can be members of such a group.

This year we’ve seen the following plants blooming at roughly the same time as the pink lady slipper:

  • Wild Black Cherry
  • Blackberry
  • Black Raspberry (just budding)
  • Star-of-Bethlehem
  • Bastard Toadflax
  • Wild Geranium

That is to say that the above flowers would be in a blooming cohort with Pink Lady Slippers.

In this example say you’re driving down the road and see wild cherry trees or blackberries in bloom at the edge of a field. Knowing that these two plants are in the blooming cohort with pink lady slippers, you automatically know it’s a good time to take a woodland walk to look for pink lady slippers in bloom.

We can also construct seasonal cohorts to help identify our blooming friends. Some flowers are known to bloom only in Spring while others bloom during the heat of Summer.

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