Botany

Calypso Bulbosa



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To some, the Fairy Slipper Orchid is one of the most magical forest flowers.  The scientific name of this plant is Calypso bulbosa and is named for the sea nymph in Homer’s Odyssey.  The ‘slipper’ part of the common name comes from the shape of the lower lip of the flower which is inflated and thought by some to have the appearance of a slipper.

The Calypso orchid is a monoecious plant, which means that is has both male and female parts on the same flower, but it cannot self pollinate so it relies on bumblebees to do the pollinating for them.  The flower consists of three bright pink sepals and two pink petals above the inflated paler pink lip petal.  The lip petal also is somewhat spotted.  Each plant has a single basal leaf with parallel veins.  The leaf is generally about one to two inches long.  The stem is very upright and is as long as eight inches.  The stem arises from a corm, which is an enlarged underground stem that acts as a vegetative reproductive structure.

The Fairy Slipper grows throughout North America and Canada in deep forests where soils are rich in decaying organic material, but even though it has a wide range it is becoming increasingly threatened due to disturbances in its environment.  Most people that pick these flowers don’t realize that picking the flower kills the whole plant, the action of picking can break the roots and this results in plant death.  Visitors to the forests where they grow trampling on the flowers are another risk that they face, as well as the major disturbances such as logging and development.

Transplanting and cultivation of the Calypso is not very successful because they require certain mycorrhizal fungi to grow and it is hard to create the exact soil needs when it is taken out of its natural environment.   This difficulty in cultivation has led to illegal trading and this has of course caused populations of this wonderful flower to decline.  It is not federally listed as threatened or endangered but such states as Wisconsin, New York, New Hampshire and Vermont have listed it as threatened or endangered.   It has been used as a food source by Native Americans, but this practice has been discouraged because of its declining populations.

Some plants that usually grow in association with Calypso bulbosa are:  western yarrow (Achillea millefolium), glacier lily (Erythronium grandiflorum), wild strawberry (Fragaria spp.), queencup beadlily (Clintonia uniflora), northern bedstraw (Galium boreal), sweet-scented bedstraw (Galium triflorum), heartleaf arnica (Arnica cordifolia), American trailplant (Adenocaulon bicolor), Piper's anemone (Anemone piperi), large-leaf sandwort (Moehringia macrophylla), Idaho goldthread (Coptis occidentalis), Oregon fairybell (Disporum spp.), rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera oblongifolia), western starflower (Trientalis sp.), twinflower (Linnaea borealis), and starry Solomon-seal (Maianthemum stellatum) western yarrow (Achillea millefolium), red besseya (Besseya rubra), wild hyacinth (Triteleia hyacinthina), glacier lily (Erythronium grandiflorum), wild strawberry (Fragaria spp.), queencup beadlily (Clintonia uniflora), northern bedstraw (Galium boreal), sweet-scented bedstraw (Galium triflorum), heartleaf arnica (Arnica cordifolia), American trailplant (Adenocaulon bicolor), Piper's anemone (Anemone piperi), large-leaf sandwort (Moehringia macrophylla), Idaho goldthread (Coptis occidentalis), Oregon fairybell (Disporum spp.), rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera oblongifolia), western starflower (Trientalis sp twinflower (Linnaea borealis), and starry Solomon-seal (Maianthemum stellatum.

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ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odyssey
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.answers.com/topic/sepal
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mycorrhiza