Do you see them? Look closer...
I had stumbled upon (thankfully figuratively and not literally) one our largest native orchids - Pink Lady's Slippers.
Four Lady's Slippers were in bloom, with colors ranging from the dark pink with vivid veining to a more delicate pale pink.
Lady's Slippers are treasured because they are hard to find. Only a handful of nurseries sell them, if that - these beauties are notoriously hard to propagate or even transplant. They only thrive under a certain conditions, which include loose, aerated soil high in organic matter, filtered sunlight and, in the case of these pink ones, very acidic soil.
This orchid is fairly widespread, found throughout much of the Eastern United States. They seem to be fairly common here in Massachusetts, but are endangered in a couple other states.
While Pink Lady's Slippers are long-lived, it takes several years for a plant to grow mature enough to bloom. They are very susceptible to habitat loss, as they only grow in such a specific environment. Because of that, and because it is so hard to transplant them, it is inadvisable to pick or move them unless they are in danger of being destroyed.
My in-laws have quite a nice patch of them behind their fence. There are a lot of smaller plants, giving promises of future blooms. My mother-in-law says that neighborhood kids sometimes cut through that area to get to the little pond nearby, and I saw a few leaves that looked bent and trampled, so we're keeping an eye on them.
We want this native treasure to keep growing.