Pink Lady’s Slipper Identification: A perennial orchid emerging from thickened roots; displaying 2 basal leaves and a large, showy flower on an erect stalk, growing 6 to 15 inches tall.
Leaves: Simple; 2 basal leaves at stem base, large almost opposite; elliptic, tapering to a pointed tip, sparsely hairy, with conspicuous parallel veins.
Flowers: Solitary; pink with reddish veins to greenish-brown; lip large, inflated into showy pouch, cleft on the upper side; single green bract arching forward from the stalk over the flower;appearing early summer.
Fruit: Ascending brown capsules under the floral bract with thousands of tiny seeds; developing throughout midsummer.
Other Names: Pink Lady’s Slipper, Moccasin Flower, American Valerian.
Flowers: May – June.
Family: Orchidaceae (Orchid family)
Habitat: Acid woods. Newfoundland to Georgia; Alabama to Tennessee to Minnesota. Too rare to harvest.
Parts Used: Root.
Uses: This plant was widely used in 19th-century America as a sedative for nervous headaches, hysteria, insomnia, nervous irritability, mental depression from sexual abuse, and menstrual irregularities accompanied by PMS. Active compounds are not water-soluble. The Pink Lady’s Slipper was considered a substitute for the more commonly used Yellow Lady’s Slipper. Orchids often have swollen, ball-shaped tubers, suggesting testicles; these roots are widely regarded as aphrodisiacs.
Preparations and Dosages: ROOT. Tincture [1:5, 60% alcohol] 20 to 90 drops, up to 3 times a day. PLANT IS RARE IN MOST AREAS. Use other medicines whenever possible. Caution: May cause contact dermatitis.