The Fairy Slipper or the Calypso Orchid is a perennial member of the orchid Family. It is also sometimes known as Venus’ slipper. It can be found in northern and montane forests, (highland areas above the sub-alpine zone). It grows best in areas that are undisturbed. It is the only species that exist in the genus Calypso. It gets it name from Greek mythology and it means concealed. The Fairy Slipper prefers areas that are sheltered on the floors of conifer forests.
The name Bulbosa refers to the bulb like corms which are short, swollen, vertical underground plant stems that serve as a storage organ for water and nutrients.
The flower of the Calypso Orchid is a small pink, purple, pinkish/purple or red in color. It has a white tip. The plant grows from ten to fourteen centimeters tall. The tiny blooms are very pretty and make a nice little splash of color as early as late March in some areas. In the northern areas they may not bloom until May or June. They can live up to five years.
The range of the Fairy Slipper is circumpolar. It grows in Canada, parts of Scandinavia including Sweden and Finland, the western Untied States and most of the northern states. It also grows in Siberia, Russia and Japan.
There are four variations of the Calpso Orchid. They are as follows.
var. americana-grown in North America
var.occidentalis-grown in North America
var.bulbosa-grown in the Eurasian range
var.japanica-grown in Japan
The Fairy Slipper is a widely grown species, however it is considered to be and endangered species simply because it is so fragile when disturbed. It does not transplant well . Some orchid lovers have tried to place it in their gardens with little success. The plant has a mycorrhizal relationship with the fungus in old woods soils. This means they are co-dependent on each other to grow well. Their beauty makes them irresistible the flower lovers.
The corms of the Fairy Slipper are edible. The peoples of Native America ate them regularly. They also used them to treat mild forms of epilepsy. Since they are endangered it is not recommended that they be harvested for food today. Some orchids have become so rare that a black market trade in orchids has popped up in some areas of the world.
Queen bumblebees pollinate the Fairy Slipper in the Bariff, Alberta area. They are tricked into thinking the plant has nectar by the anther like yellow hairs on the plant. When they learn this is not so they quickly start avoiding the plant.