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The Fairy Slipper, also known as Calypso bulbosa, is part of the orchid family (Orchidaceae). It was added to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 1988, and the photograph posted on the official website is from the Rocky Mountain region of Colorado. Also native to parts of Canada, The United States, and in parts of Europe; the Calypso bulbosa is also known as Norne in Norwegian, German and Danish, Neidonkenkä in Finnish.

To view the official taxonomic account for Calypso bulbosa see www.itis.usda.gov. Common descendants of the Calypso bulbosa are the species Calypso bulbosa (L.) Oakes, the variety Calypso bulbosa var. americana (R. Br. ex Ait. f.) Luer, and the variety Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis (Holz.) Boivin. Orchid breeders are specifically people who force orchids to hybrid and cross-pollinate until a new, genetically different verity is formed. These hybrids are different enough to warrant being called something else, but are usually not stable enough to become their own species, therefore they are labeled after their parents and usually the founder is noted in the binomial nomenclature.

This orchid is currently endangered in several places, and although edible should not be harvested for food since the flowers are rare and need specific conditions for propagation. Orchids seem to depend upon a symbiotic relationship with soil based fungi, and when transplanted to new locations, die because of the lack of that specific fungal relationship.

The Calypso orchid specifically has a single broad basal leaf and a sheathed stem. Its showy orange-ish drooping flower is made up of three petals and three sepals. The central petal is different from the other petals, and appears to be saclike, and is officially called the lip. The Calypso bulbosa, named after the sea nymph Kalypso from Homer's Odyssey, likes wet and/or boggy conditions to live in. When looking for this orchid, seek out deep shade conifer forests, and since the flowering season begins in late April until late June. Plan your hunting schedule accordingly. A dry spring could shorten this season, and keep in mind that looking in late summer will not help you find the fairy slipper orchid.


Also please note that although this orchid and several others are edible, not all plants are; some are exceptionally toxic.


  • For a picture see of the Calypso bulbosa visit http://www.wildflower2.org/NPIN/Gallery/Detail2.asp?ID=6848.
  • http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/er/factsheets/plants/fryslip.htm
  • http://linnaeus.nrm.se/flora/mono/orchida/calyp/calybul.html

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