General: perennial, erect, hairless herb, stem 5-20 cm tall, delicate, tinged pink or purple, from bulb-like corm, ovoid, 15-25 mm long.
Leaves: basal, single, grown from the top of the corm in the fall and persistent through the winter, withering in the summer, the blade usually longer than the stalk, broadly ovate-elliptic to oblong-ovate, dark green, distinctly veined, mostly 3-6 cm long.
Flowers: single (very rarely 2), sweet-scented, nodding, the sepals and two petals alike, erect to ascending, 15-22 mm long, lanceolate, magenta with 3 deeper-colored veins. Lip large, slipper-like, yellow-hairy in the middle, hanging down, slightly longer than the other tepals, about 10 mm wide, yellowish- or reddish-purple, spotted on the flanged appendage and streaked inside the sac with brownish-purple. Reproductive column magenta to light purple, nearly horizontal, concave, hooded.
Fruits: erect, elliptic capsule, about 1 cm long, with 10,000-20,000 tiny seeds.
Mostly in rather deep shade of cool, moist forests, in soil rich with decaying leaves and wood, foothills to montane zone, in w. and c. parts of MT. Also from AK to Labrador, and s. to CA, AZ, CO, MN, MI, NY and ME, and Eurasia.
The bulb of fairyslipper is edible, raw or cooked, and have a rich, butter-like quality. They were usually boiled by the North American Indians before being eaten, though young maidens would eat them raw as they were believed to increase the size of the bust.
The bulbs are antispasmodic and have been used by the Thompson Indians for chewing or the flowers sucked in the treatment of mild epilepsy.
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