Fairy Slipper- Orchidbulbosa
The jewel-like fairy slipper is one of a dozen species of native orchids that can be found around the Elk Mountains [not where we were]. These are the first of the local orchid species to bloom, beginning in late May, and are found in the diffuse light of coniferous forests, usually on north-facing aspects. This is the most colorful of the local orchids with bright pink petals crowning the yellow, maroon and white “slipper.” Each flower is solitary, on a short stem emerging from a single broad basal leaf. Like many orchids, the fairy slipper has a bulbous, or testicle-shaped root, inspiring its species name, bulbosa.
Another common name, calypso orchid, may be interpreted as a reference to the lid or hood (from the Greek word kalyptra, meaning covering or veil) that protects the reproductive organs of the flower. Calypso is also the name of the sea nymph in Homer’s epic poem, the Odyssey, who detained the willing Odysseus on his return from Troy. Like the sea nymph, these orchids are captivatingly beautiful and prefer secluded haunts. They are sometimes also called Venus orchid, after the Greek goddess of love and beauty. Although calypso orchids are usually not very abundant where they grow, they can be found in northern temperate forests around the world.