Calypso

Deep in the woods this week I found a delightful sight — a single Calypso orchid in a bed of moss. This is only the second time I’ve found this little flower on our place and each time it has filled me with joy.

I saw my first-ever Calypso decades ago in Yoho National Park. Until then I assumed that all orchids were hot-house beauties, unable to withstand the rigours of outdoor life. They couldn’t possibly survive a Rocky Mountain winter. But survive they do.

Luckily, as one park staff person said at the time, they bloomed before most tourists arrived otherwise they would suffer at the hands of flower pickers. These little orchids are delicate — picking the flower is often enough to pull up the bulb-like corm and then the plant will most likely die. It doesn’t transplant well either as it depends on special fungi in the soil.

Calypso produces only a single pair of leaves

Calypso, named for the sea nymph in Homer’s Odyssey, is also known as Venus’s slipper and fairy slipper.

Each plant produces a single flower

So far I’ve found 3 orchid species in the woods — last year it was pale coralroot and spotted coralroot. This year, Calypso.

Pick the flower or pull up the bulb and the plant will die

Orchids in the woods? Wonderful!


Calypso   Calypso bulbosa

Stop. Sit. Look.

Good advice. Glad I took it. Might have missed you otherwise.

On my homeward trek from the creek I took the cow path through the aspens. That’s when it happened.

I paused to look down and there you were. Never seen you around here before. But you’re well enough established that our lack of meeting is my oversight, not yours.

I scooted down, plunked my butt just off the trail and introduced myself.

You: spotted coralroot orchid. Me? Dumbstuck by your beauty.


Spotted coralroot orchid   Corallorhiza maculata