Calypso bulbosa

(Linnaeus) Oakes var. americana (R. Brown) Luer
Calypso, Fairy Slipper

Location Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories. This is primarily a Canadian-Alaskan orchid. In both Eurasia and North America this orchid is rare and local.
Specific Habitat

In the east, often located in inaccessible, damp forests. In the Ottawa District, the plants grow in calcareous cedar swamps, in partially open places in moist needle-mould on mounds around trees or on the swamp floor.
In the heat of summer all living traces of the plant disappear. In the fall, a single leaf is produced, persisting under winter snows until spring blooming.
This orchid is most common in the west, occurring at moderately high elevations in the Rocky Mountains, often in relatively dry pine forests, where it is far more successful in reproducing itself

Flowering SeasonMay-June-July.

Height to 20 cm depending on habitat.
Leaf: solitary, basal, dark to bluish-green, appears in autumn.
Flower showy, solitary, sepals and petals laterally spreading, pinkish-purple, rarely whitish. Lip saccate, white, with yellowish 2-pronged apex, streaked with reddish-brown inside. Apron formed from edges of lip, covers lower part of sac, white with pinkish-purple edges and spots, crested with three rows of golden hairs.


Originally documented in an extensive wooded wetland which is now part of the drained and cultivated Holland Marsh, this orchid now seems to be extinct in what was the southern extreme of its range. Despite its extensive range, this orchid does not survive close contact with man: this once well-established orchid has been reduced to a small number of remote colonies. The white-flowered f. candida has been reported in Bruce County, Manitoulin Island, and Thunder Bay area. Var. occidentalis (Holzinger) Calder & Taylor is presently debated as a species, subspecies, variety, or form. It is more similar to the typical variety found in Eurasia than to ar. Americana.
Its habitat is the Pacific Northwest from California to British Columbia. The plant is similar to the typical variety, but the lamina of the lip is mottled or irregularly blotched with purple, and the tuft of bristles is reduced to a few thin whitish hairs. Isolated in the Cascade Mountains and adjacent territory west of the Rocky Mountains in Canada, this variety probably relies on different pollinators, as evidenced by the lack of yellow bristles to attract bees.


Orchids of Ontario
Orchids of the Northeast
The Canadian Field-Naturalist Vol III-1
The Native Orchids of the United States and Canada excluding Florida
The Orchids of Bruce & Grey


© Royal Botanical Gardens, Dr. Donald Gunn Image Collection.