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!