Calypso bulbosa var. americana (Fairy Slipper)
|Also known as:||Calypso Orchid|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade; rich woods, coniferous forest|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||3 to 6 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Typically single or rarely two flowers on short stem. Narrow, sharply pointed floral bract stands erect behind the nodding flower. Over-all dimensions 1¼ inches tall by 1 inch wide, three sepals and two petals of similar size and shape, pink/lavender, narrow with pointed tips, spreading as rays from a crown. The central column is like a smooth, delicately colored skullcap that flares out over the slipper’s entrance below. The delicate slipper-shaped lower lip is lined with rich veins of maroon and purple with dotted edges flowing onto a spreading lip then painted with a swatch of yellow, with two teeth of yellow from below.
Leaves and stem:
A single smooth oval leaf ¾ to 1¼ inches wide, 1 to 2¼ inches long, on slender stem from an underground bulb-like base, flares openly out over the ground, pleated along parallel veins and wrinkled across surface and edges. Leaves persist through the winter and wither away when the flower blooms. The flowering stem is smooth, green to reddish brown with several wrapping sheaths from base.
Notes:This petite native orchid competes in exquisitness with any exotic tropical species one could imagine, as much a delight to behold as it is elusive to locate. Not all mysteries get solved. For example, scientists are still uncertain as to whether fairies do in fact, steal away with the petals in the night and dance!
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Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken in Chippewa National Forest in Beltrami County
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?