Irises are in bloom as I walk by the pond. They have just begun to show their blue colors to this wetland.

As I enter the woods, I note small trees and bushes flowering along the trail. In the woods’ edge are raspberries, blackberries with white flowers and the pink petals of wild rose.

A couple of species of dogwoods have their blossoms, also, as do the viburnums. We have three kinds of these small trees in late June; none of which are called viburnum. Instead, they are named highbush cranberry, nannyberry and arrow-wood.

Getting further back into the forest, I see that several of the shade-tolerant wildflowers are still blooming: yellow blue-bead lily (clintonia) and whites of starflower, wild lily-of-the valley and bunchberry. Scattered among them are some red-yellow columbines.

Larry Weber
Larry Weber

And all of these are surrounded by tall (up to 4 or 5 feet) ferns. The mushroom season has not yet arrived, but on a downed log, I do see some white oyster fungi. But I’m headed for a different habitat as I pass these trees: a bog.

Bogs in late June are well known as being filled with annoying insects. And as I step into the shade of this one, I’m quickly met by myriads of mosquitoes. They continue to accompany me during my walk.

As expected, the bog is covered by a thick growth of sphagnum moss, but several woody plants are here, too. Black spruces and tamaracks thrive in this site and as I walk I’m regularly ducking their lower branches. Smaller shrubs of leatherleaf and Labrador tea are common. The former had its rows of white flowers earlier in spring, but the latter is blooming now.

This bog is too shaded for bog laurel, rosemary or cottongrass, often seen in more open bogs. But there are plenty of other plants here.

Standing tall, 3 or 4 feet, are the cinnamon ferns. They have cinnamon-colored sporangia growing from the center of the leafy leaves (fronds).

Looking on the moss carpet, I see an abundance of white flowers. They look something like the wild lily-of-the valleys in the nearby woods, but these are taller with a spike white flowers. Known as three-leaved false Solomon-seal, they are unique to the bog flora and abound in this particular one. I’m here seeking another bog flower: the pink lady-slipper orchids.

This bog was very wet a few weeks ago and during that visit, I found none, but now conditions have changed and though each sphagnum moss step is cushiony, I do not get wet feet.

Pink lady-slipper orchids (also known as moccasin flower or stemless lady-slipper since the growth from the flower to the base of the plant is technically not a stem, but a stalk part of the flower) do not grow in clumps.

A pink lady-slipper orchid blooms in a shady bog on a June day. Photo by Larry Weber
A pink lady-slipper orchid blooms in a shady bog on a June day. Photo by Larry Weber

It takes a few minutes to get used to finding them, but when I do, I locate about two dozen in bloom. Each is from 6-12 inches tall, with two basal leaves and a single pink flower above. The petals of the lower lip are fused and hang down in a pouch shape. When viewed from the side, it can resemble the shape of a shoe or “lady slipper."

Growing in acid soil, they may be in conifer woods as well as bogs. The fragrant color gets the attention of bees to be pollinated. Flowers are perennial and I have been finding them here in many previous Junes. And I expect they will continue in this secluded, wet, shady site.

Retired teacher Larry Weber, a Barnum resident, is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him via Katie Rohman at krohman@duluthnews.com.