Calypso bulbosa is a small pink, purple, or red flowered (accented with white lower lip, darker purple spottings, and yellow beard) perennial member of the orchid family (Orchidaceae), and is found in undisturbed northern montane forests. It is the only species currently classified in the genus Caypso, which takes its name from the Greek signifying concealment, as they tend to favor sheltered areas on conifer forest floors.
Their tiny purple blooms, typically about 10 cm in height, can be a pleasant sporadic sight on hiking trails from late March onwards, though in the more northerly parts of their range they do not bloom until May and June. Flowers are 3.75 cm wide. Plant is evergreen and will have leaves all season.
The bulbs have been used as a food source by North American native peoples, though this is not recommended now because the sites for these plants are now rare and easily destroyed. The Thompson Indians of British Columbia used it as a treatment for epilepsy.
The Calypso Orchid relies on "pollination by deception", as it attracts insects which it does not nourish and which eventually begin to learn not to revisit it. Avoiding such recognition may account for some of the small variation in the flower's appearance.
Its range is circumpolar, and includes all the western states and most of the most northerly states of the United States. Furthermore Scandinavia (northern Sweden and Finland), northern part of European Russia and eastern Siberia and Canada from 0 - 2000 meters elevation. Two varieties are found in the USA, var. americana and var. occidentalis, which are found respectively east and west of the Sierra Nevada ranges. There exist one variety in Japan, var. speciosa which is found in moutains of the Chūbu region.
Although the calypso orchid's distribution is wide, it is very susceptible to disturbance, and is therefore classified as threatened or endangered in several states, and in Sweden and Finland as well. It is easily disturbed and does not transplant well, owing to its mycorrhizal dependence on specific soil fungi.
The Calypso orchid has difficulties surviving transplanting, so many growers grow it from seed or from flask. The plant is planted in a location with indirect sunlight where it is exposed to sun only at cool hours of the day. Water every one to two weeks and grow in a humid mix of peat and bark.
Common Name:The Bulbed Calypso, The Calypso orchid, Venus's slipper, fairy slipper
- Calypso americana R.Br. in W.T.Aiton 1813
- Calypso borealis Salisb. 1807
- Calypso bulbosa f. albiflora P.M.Br. 1995
- Calypso bulbosa f. nivea P.M.Br. 1995
- Calypso bulbosa f. occidentalis Holz. 1895
- Calypso bulbosa subsp. occidentalis (Holz.) Calder & R.L.Taylor 1963
- Calypso bulbosa var. americana (R.Br.) Luer 1975
- Calypso bulbosa var japonica Max. 1905
- Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis (Holz.) Cockerell 1916
- Calypso japonica Maximova ex Kom. 1901
- Calypso occidentalis A. Heller 1898
- Calypso speciosa Schltr. 1919
- Calypsodium boreale (Sw.) Link 1829
- Cymbidium boreale Sw. 1799
- Cypripedium bulbosum L. 1753
- Cytherea borealis (Salisb.) Salisb. 1812
- Cytherea bulbosa (L.) House 1905
- Cytherea occidentalis (A. Heller) A. Heller 1906
- Cytherea speciosa (Schltr.) Makino 1929
- Limodorum boreale Sw. 1805
- Norna borealis (Salisb.) Wahlenb. 1826
- Orchidium americanum Steud. 1840
- Orchidium arcticum Sw. 1814
- Orchidium boreale Sw. 1814
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