Welcome to Poetry Friday!

I’m happy to host and participate in Poetry Friday today. We are enjoying the end of an unusually cool and wet spring, with lots of time spent looking at and photographing wildflowers. One of my favorite late spring flowers is Pink Lady Slippers. I first fell in love with lady slippers when I worked at a residential environmental education center in Massachusetts (more than four decades ago–yikes!) Once a week we would get a new crop of fifth graders who stayed on-site to spend the week learning about all-things nature. It was a fairly intense experience, and I learned a ton about teaching and natural history. During the final week, hundreds of lady slippers bloomed along the Sudbury River. If I hadn’t already been completely hooked on being a naturalist, that orchid display did it for me.

Last May we were planning a trek to look for Lady Slippers near Lake Michigan. My husband checked his I-Naturalist app to see if they were blooming yet, and discovered that someone had found them growing about a mile from our house. How had we lived here for twenty-five years and not known that one of my favorite wildflowers grew in abundance on a trail close to us? Needless to say, we took our second annual hike to see them blooming again this year.

I did not know much about their pollination until I decided to write about lady slippers for this week’s post. They are masters of deception. The flower’s scent attracts bumblebees, who enter a slit in the billowy pouch. Once inside the bumblebees are trapped in a one-way tunnel, forced to first pass a flower’s stigma where pollen on their backs can pollinate the flower. Then they brush past the flowers anthers and pick up pollinia, packages of pollen that they cannot eat. When they finally bumble out, they discover that they have searched in vain for nectar–the flower does not make a reward for its trapped pollinators. The hapless bumblebee’s journey inspired this poem:

Invitation to a Bumble Bee
Come to the lady slipper ball.
We’ll greet you with a blush of pink,
a tempting scent,
our swollen lips.
     Step in the secret door.
     Snuggle close as we
     waltz and stroke your polleny cloak,
     then swing and sway near the pollen we bear.
Where is your reward, you ask?
Where are the hors d'oeuvres, the festive drink?
You’ll find no nectar here.
Still, our invitation beguiles you--
     The trap you stumble through,
     another bloom you bumble to,
     until you learn the empty lure
     of lady slippers. 
--©Buffy Silverman

In other news, I’m excited that I’ve got a new book coming out this fall. ON A GOLD-BLOOMING DAY: Finding Fall Treasures launches on September 6 from Millbrook Press. Kirkus Reviews calls it sun-dazzling! If you’d like to write a review of it when review copies are available, please let me know in the comments. I’d be especially grateful to anyone who has an audience of librarians and teachers of early elementary school.

Happy Friday–please add your link and enjoy reading the posts listed below!

34 thoughts on “Welcome to Poetry Friday!

  1. I love the information you shared about lady slippers, Buffy! I’ve always been an admirer, but now I realize how little I know about these woodland orchids. Thanks for teaching me and for hosting (though I couldn’t pull it together to participate this week). Also, I’m so excited for your upcoming book! Congratulations!

  2. Buffy, I did read your post on Friday but must have been so tired that I forgot to send out my response. My eyes continue to be tired after cataract surgery and I have the toddler grandgirls here this weekend. I do love those flowers and your photographs. They are a unique plant that you so beautifully wrote about. I like the voice in your poem and the rich content you offered. I would like to review your book that I am sure is fabulous. This coming school year, I was asked to present via Zoom to a reading council on Long Island 4 times. My audience will be elementary classroom teachers and literacy specialists. Thank you for hosting.

  3. Buffy, I thought I left a comment after I uploaded my post but I must have fallen asleep. Your poem has voice and a content-rich story. Congratulations on your new book. I am sure that it is terrific. I would love to review it. Next year, keynote Iam keynoting 4 online presentations for a reading council on Long Island. My audience will be Elementary school classroom teachers and literacy specialists. I have the grandgirls here this weekend so my commenting has been limited but I hope to read more posts tomorrow.

  4. Love your poem about the lady slipper and bumble bee! It reminds me of carnivorous plants and how they tempt insects (and sometimes larger creatures) inside with color and a nice odor similar to nectar. Then, they are trapped! At least the bees can get out! Very lovely pictures too! Thanks for hosting today!

  5. Buffy, I love this poem! I also had a special place in my heart for Lady Slippers. My husband and I bought property and built a home 25 years ago. We kept a small patch of woods and ephemeral pond undisturbed and were rewarded with a single flower (among other natural wonders). I looked forward to it emerging every spring for the 20 years we lived there. I am sure the new owners have changed it all, but, in my mind, that flower comes up for me every spring.

  6. Fascinating to learn about lady slippers — quite a conniving flower. 🙂 Fun poem!! Congrats on your new book. Looking forward to seeing it. Thanks for hosting this week!

  7. My favorite flower, and alas, they are so hard to find. We have a few popping up here and there, but I wish they could be cultivated. Lovely poem, Buffy – thanks for hosting!

    1. Oops, hit “submit” too soon! Wanted to congratulate you on your new book coming out this fall – great news!

  8. Reading your back story, seeing the photo AND then the poem was wonderful– the POEM captured it all!

  9. Oh those swollen lips! Thank you, Buffy. The new book cover is gorgeous and inviting. Congratulations!! I’m excited to read it. xo

  10. You and I share a love of wildflowers and the desire to learn more about the fascinations of nature. Who knew about the deceptive lady slipper? And you have formed a lovely poem to share that knowledge. My favorite line (because you are so good at word play)is, ” another bloom you bumble to.” Thanks for hosting. I would love to review your new book. I loved your Snow-melting Day which teaches my students in the deep south about snow. I’m not sure I will get a post thrown together today. I’ve been keeping my 2.5 year old grandson all week. He has inspired me to write a rhyming picture book. I’d love to talk to you about how to go about writing it. New territory for me.

    1. Thanks for offering to review, Margaret–I’ll let you know when I’ve got the netgalley info. Happy to chat about writing and give my 2 cents (which may only be worth 1.5, despite inflation…)

  11. Thanks for hosting and for sharing so much information on Lady Slippers. I love learning about flowers, especially important pollinators. Looking forward to your new book, too! Congratulations!

  12. Thank you for hosting us today Buffy! I loved learning about Lady Slippers. I find it fascinating how perfectly evolved they are to lure pollinators into their one-way blooms. Congratulations on the new book!

  13. Buffy, those dancing last slippers are beautiful. I love being introduced to them here and learning so much about them. Lovely sounds in this phrase: “stroke your polleny cloak”

    Thank you for hosting today.

  14. I saw them when you shared on FB, Buffy. I know lady slippers but have not seen them here in Colorado, probably not in the right place! They are sumptuous. I laughed at those “bumbling bees”. Your poem reads as if they are being scorned. I love it. And I can’t wait for your new book, love the first one! Thanks for hosting and for the new facts about a tricky flower.

  15. Thanks for hosting us and for the Lady Slipper information and poem! Poor bees!

    Congratulations on your new book…can’t wait!!

  16. Lady Slippers – our MN State Flower–I’ve only seen them in the wild two or three times. Love your poem–makes me want to seek these flowers out. CONGRATS on your sequel! I can’t wait to read it!

  17. Oh, those poor bees. They just aren’t designed to ever learn…that unending search for nectar from pink slippers. What a wonderful poem! I love it. And, congratulations on your newest book! I’d love to review for you–but I’m not in ES. So, please save copies for those folks. Happy Poetry Friday! Thanks for hosting.


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