Lady's slipper orchid
Slipper orchid of the genus Paphiopedilum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Cypripedioideae

See text and Taxonomy of the orchid family.

Cypripedioideae genera range

Lady's slipper orchids (also known as lady slipper orchids or slipper orchids) are orchids in the subfamily Cypripedioideae, which comprises the genera Cypripedium, Mexipedium, Paphiopedilum, Phragmipedium and Selenipedium.[1] They are characterised by the slipper-shaped pouches (modified labellums) of the flowers the pouch traps insects so they are forced to climb up past the staminode, behind which they collect or deposit pollinia, thus fertilizing the flower.


Unlike most other orchids, slipper orchids have two fertile anthers — they are "diandrous". For that reason, experts have debated whether this clade should be classified within the orchid family (Orchidaceae), or whether they should compose a separate family altogether called Cypripediaceae.[2] Around the year 2000, molecular phylogenetics and DNA sampling have come to play an increasingly important role in classification.[3] This has led to the conclusion that recognition of a distinct Cypripediaceae family would be inappropriate.[4]

Lady's slipper orchid (Cypripedium calceolus)

The subfamily Cypripedioideae is monophyletic and consists of five genera:

  • Paphiopedilum, found in the tropical forests of southeast Asia reaching as far north as southern China. Paphiopedilum is quite easy to cultivate and therefore is popular among orchid enthusiasts. In fact, over-collection of this genus has been so extensive that many species are now sub-viable in their natural habitats.
  • Phragmipedium, found across northern South and Central America, is also easy to cultivate as it requires lower temperatures than Paphiopedilum, eliminating the need for a greenhouse in many areas.
  • Mexipedium, a monotypic genus, consisting of a single species that was found in a single locality in Oaxaca, Mexico.


The province of Prince Edward Island, Canada adopted the lady's slipper as its floral emblem in 1947.[5]


  1. Cash, C. (1991). The Slipper Orchids. Timber Press. ISBN 0-88192-183-1.
  2. Rasmussen, F. N. 1985. "Orchids". In R. M. Dahlgren, H. T. Clifford, and P. F. Yeo [eds.], The families of the monocotyledons. Springer Verlag, Berlin.
  3. K.W. Dixon, S.P. Kell, R.L. Barrett and P.J. Cribb (eds) 2003. "DNA Data and Orchidaceae Systematics: A New Phylogenetic Classification". Orchid Conservation. pp. 69–89. Natural History Publications, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
  4. Górniak, M.; Paun, O.; Chase, M. W. (2010). "Phylogenetic relationships within Orchidaceae based on a low-copy nuclear coding gene, Xdh: Congruence with organellar and nuclear ribosomal DNA results" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 56 (2): 784. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2010.03.003.
  5. "Prince Edward Island". Government of Canada. 2013-09-04. Retrieved 2015-07-18.

Further reading

External links

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