Cypripedium candidum (Small White Lady's-slipper)

Plant Info
Also known as: White Moccasin-flower
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist prairies, sedge meadows, calcareous fens
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:6 to 34 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular

[photo of flower] Single to rarely two flowers on slender stem (peduncle), The inflated lower petal (the slipper) is ¾ to 1 inch long, glossy white, sometimes faint purple speckling lining pouch opening and/or faint veination on lower pouch. Bright yellow flower column, often splashed with red, broadens into a flat oval lip, appressed tightly into pouch opening. Lateral petals are narrow, to 1½ inches long, greenish brown and twisted. Sepals are similar in color; lateral sepals are fused behind the lip; upper sepal is broader and erect above the lip. The single leaf-like floral bract is up to 4¼ inches long.

Leaves: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] 2 to 4 leaves on the upper part of the stem are broad to lance-elliptical, each 2 to 6 inches long, covered with short hairs and parallel veins, are alternately attached and sheath the stem. A few scale-like leaves sheath the lower part of the stem. Dense clumps of up to 50 stems emerge from a single root.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruit is an oblong-elliptic capsule containing numerous tiny seeds.


Small White Lady's-slipper is a rapidly declining treasure and is a Minnesota State Special Concern species. My first post-college position was at (what I still call) the new zoo in Apple Valley. About that time construction began on the new Cedar Ave. bridge over the Minnesota River Valley. We obtained a salvage permit for orchids within the construction zone. Other orchid species, C. reginae (Showy Lady's-slipper) and C. parviflorum var. makasin (Small Yellow Lady's-slipper) were also present but masses of C. candidum were visible into the distance. None survived our hastily prepared beds at the zoo but no matter, today they are all but extinguished from the area. The culprit? Commercially developed reed canary-grass hybrids (RCG) - Phalaris arundinaceae, that swallowed up all of the land. Development and invasive species, can we envision less costly and destructive progress?

Where C. candidum and C. parviflorum (either or both vars) are in close proximity to each other, such as the edge where prairie meets forest, hybrids are likely to occur; the hybrid between C. candidum and C. parviflorum var. makasin is known as C. ×andrewsii. According to Welby Smith's book “Native Orchids of Minnesota”, the hybrids can be baffling, most with intermediate characteristics in flower size and color, but some with different traits of each parent. In each case, the flower color may be white, creamy or yellow. It also mentions a study in Iowa showed hybridization was more common than previously thought, the hybrids cross-breeding between themselves and their parents, known as a hybrid swarm.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken on SNA lands in Cottonwood County where RCG also presents an imminent threat, and in Dakota County. Photo by Derek Anderson taken in Mahnomen County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Dave - Stevens County
on: 2010-06-20 13:56:33

I know of a small patch of these lady slippers on a private piece of remnant native prairie next to a wetland, NW of Morris, MN.

Posted by: Brian - LeSueur County
on: 2011-06-11 00:01:07

There's a colony of literally thousands of these plants in LeSueur County that I and others have been observing for many years. The {expletives deleted} reed canary grass is invading the colony, though. Here's a link to my photos on Flickr: I and a friend saw a few (large handful...?) of them in a fen near the Cities about a week and a half ago, but the population density was only a tiny fraction of that at the LeSueur County site.

Posted by: Kylene - Chippewa County
on: 2011-10-05 10:13:19

I have been observing this orchid, Cypripedium candidumin, small white lady slipper, in Chippewa County, western Minnesota, for the past 7 years. Some years they are very prolific and others just a few bloom. They bloom in late May - early June. I have some beautiful pictures I have taken over the past few years. Kylene

Posted by: Tom - Blue Stem Prairie (Nature Conservancy)
on: 2012-04-11 22:15:36

south of Buffalo River State Park. Found in wet meadow, south of parking area. Scattered clumps of 1-3 plants, blooming in May. First seen in 2008.

Posted by: k. Ibberson - Steele County
on: 2015-05-20 17:29:05

It seems a couple of week early, but we found several just starting to bloom near Hope Mn. The warm temps and sun over the next few days should really bring them out. Enjoy!

Posted by: Adam - bluestem prairie
on: 2015-06-14 07:53:58

I was hiking around on this nature conservancy land bird watching and taking pictures of flowers when I suddenly saw a small group of small white lady slippers I took some pictures and would be glad to share them if You would like to see them. I hiked for hours these were near a seep upstream from a wet meadow.

Posted by: Melvin - MSUM Science Center, Clay County
on: 2015-12-05 12:00:13

Have found this little flower here for many on what used to be the Ponderosa Golf Course. While hiking out there yesterday I found that the area of low wet land and Willow trees is now being cleared of the trees and brush by Moorhead State University who owns the land and is turning it back into native prairie. To bad to see this little flower being destroyed.

Posted by: Terry - Douglas County
on: 2016-05-24 21:51:34

So cute. Found them before the buds opened and thought they were little yellow lady's slippers, but when I checked today to my delight they are the little whites. Cool!

Posted by: Rachael - Stearns County
on: 2017-05-29 17:20:35

Found about a dozen plants in the Roscoe Prairie Scientific and Natural Area north of Paynesville.

Posted by: Dave - Stearns County
on: 2017-06-03 20:22:16

I'm confirming what the poster above mentioned, numerous plants found June 3rd, 2017 over a fairly large area at the Roscoe Prairie Scientific and Natural Area north of Paynesville. Average flower size was probably 3/4" with all of the plants being on the short side. They are somewhat difficult to spot until you're right on top of them. This area was burned off last fall; the slippers evidently loved it as from what I saw it's been a good year for them at this location.

Posted by: Bonnie L - Polk County
on: 2017-06-12 11:57:41

In a drainage ditch, we also found a mix of Yellow lady slippers and in between the yellow and the Small White Lady's slipper we found what looks to be a hybrid. It's a mid-sized flower, much bigger than the Small white and smaller than the Yellow. It's a cream color. We have many photos.

Posted by: Anna - Benton
on: 2018-05-26 11:13:42

I was wandering around on my dad's farm/swamp and noticed an off flower I believe it to be a small white lady slipper!! Right near Foley

Posted by: Julia H Gray - Southeast of LeRoy, Minnesota and south of Ostrander, Minn
on: 2018-11-01 11:02:54

Just want to let you know that my son photographed this flower in Hayden Prairie, Chester Township, Howard County, Iowa, on June 10, 2018. Hayden Prairie is located 4.9 miles south of Chester, Iowa, which is on the Minnesota/Iowa line. We have been photographing the wildflowers in this prairie for at least 30 years and have never come across this plant before.

Posted by: Amy Rager - Chippewa County
on: 2019-05-31 11:22:16

Following a burn, there is a tremendous flush of Small white Lady's slippers this year! I counted over 100 plants, then just stopped! I have many photos in multiple locations in our county.

Posted by: Wayne Goeken - ERSKINE
on: 2019-06-15 09:55:00

Found both small white lady's slippers and yellow ladyslippers in road ditches along MN Hwy 102 between Fertile and Crookston in Polk County. Approx 9-10 miles NW of Fertile.

Posted by: Sara Gronfeld - NE of Graceville, MN in Traverse County
on: 2020-05-27 11:24:33

I just stumbled across a few plants in the bottom of a road ditch in southern Traverse County! I was so excited to find them and took pictures of the lovely plants! First time I've ever seen them in our area. How can I report the positive identification and location to get Traverse County on the map?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-06-22 11:17:38

Sara, the best way to get Traverse County on the map is to collect a specimen and submit it to the Bell Herbarium, then it becomes part of the official record. But for this particular species you need a special permit to do so unless it's on your own property. So the next best thing is to report it to the MN DNR, Biological Survey dept. See the DNR website.

Posted by: Linda - Schaefer Prairie Nature Conservancy site - McCleod County
on: 2022-06-14 16:32:58

Saw lots of these 6/11/22. Most were past their peak bloom but a few were still blooming.

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