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Busting The Lady Slipper Myth: They're Not Rare, and They're Legal To Pick

Distant Hill Gardens

The New Hampshire state wildflower is blooming, and with it, the myth that surrounds it: that it’s super rare, and illegal to pick. In fact, the pink and white flower we know as the Lady Slipper is quite common. And picking this flower is completely legal.

“They are not considered ‘rare,’ they are actually common but are listed on the ‘special concerns’ list because they have propagation and climate issues,” according to NH Roots

A common story passed by word of mouth, it’s often thought that the lady slipper is protected by New Hampshire state law. It isn’t, but the confusion may come from our southerly neighbor.

According to 1935 Massachusetts law 116Aunder the General Laws, “no person shall pull up or dig up the plant of a wild azalea, wild orchid or cardinal flower.” 

Three types of lady slipper, the Showy, Small Yellow and Ram’s-Head, are listed on the official Massachussett’s endangered plants list. In New Hampshire,  the Pink Lady Slipper is given the designation of “special concern.”

According to the EEA, a special concern plant is one that naturally has a finite range of habitat. The lady slipper requires a high level of humidity and readily available subsurface water.

Though no fine can be placed on New Hampshire pickers, the stigma associated with taking the flower will probably remain in place for a while. And as it turns out, picking of the 6 to 15 inch tall orchid has become so infrequent that the lady slipper’s population has grown substantially in the Granite State.

Unlike some myths, this one has proved to be beneficial, ensuring the health of the flower for many years to come.

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