Wildflowers are some of the best fixtures in nature to look for colors, along with leaves in autumn. Among the many blooms are orchids of all kinds, many of which are found in Minnesota and North Dakota, under trees and in the grass.
The showy lady's slipper orchid is Minnesota's state flower, found largely in forest biomes in the central and eastern parts of the state. It blooms from early June to mid-July.
Itasca State Park, Minnesota's oldest state park, is a classic location in which to find these flowers growing along roadsides, wetted with raindrops just after a morning shower for a picturesque setting.
In July in North Dakota, the western prairie fringed orchid blooms in the few fragments of its native habitat left behind after cropland conversion, largely in Ransom and Richland counties in the state's southeast corner.
These orchids are delicate flowers highly dependent on a variety of conditions for growing. About 2,000 individual plants are found in North Dakota.
The species is federally listed as threatened and its largest population is in North Dakota.
Resembling a ballet slipper, the pink lady's slipper orchid is a magenta-colored bloom. Minnesota is at the western edge of its range.
On a visit to Cascade River State Park, the flower grew together in clusters from the forest floor near the raging river.
Pink ladies can grow from 6 inches to over 1 foot in height and bloom from May to July.
Yellow lady's slippers range around North America, including eastern North Dakota and most of Minnesota, also into the eastern U.S. and northwest into Alaska and the Rocky Mountains.
These too are found throughout Itasca State Park and in unexpected places, like the corner of a trail staircase or even along the roadside. They bloom from about May to July and can reach 18 inches in height.
Minnesota is home to 46 species of orchids while North Dakota has just a handful.