Calypso bulbosa var. americana (Fairy Slipper)

Plant Info
Also known as: Calypso Orchid
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
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):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular

[photo of flowers] 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: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] 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.


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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More photos

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?

Posted by: Sara - Pennington Bog
on: 2016-05-22 18:11:37

Quite a few of them blooming in the bog

Posted by: Pam - Border Route Trail, BWCA
on: 2017-05-09 19:27:33

Saw these along the Border Route Trail in northern Minnesota near the end of May 2016.

Posted by: Stacie - Beltrami Island Forest
on: 2019-03-10 17:55:16

I had seen only about two blooming in a cedar bog late last spring.

Posted by: Jeff - Gnesen Township, near Sunshine Lake on small bog lake
on: 2020-08-04 23:42:44

Found 2-3 plants here on the rim of the floating bog a few years in a row. Did not check this year.

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