Calypso Orchid, Calypso bulbosa, is also known as fairy slipper or Zeus's slipper. It is a true perennial terrestrial orchid that grows in our forested areas. We have quite a few of them, but you have to know where to look and you have to look hard because they like to hide. (The flower's name is derived from that of a Greek nymph, Kalypso, who, according to Homer in the Odyssey, lived in seclusion hidden away in a deep cave on an island far from everywhere. She used her beauty to keep Ulysses captive on her island for seven years. In Greek, Calypso means hidden from view.)

calypso orchid

Calypso Orchid

Calypso Orchid


Our Calypso orchids are brightly colored, but very small - only standing a couple of inches off the forest floor. Little is known about the plant. Some horticulturalists tell us that they are pollinated by bees even though they have no nectar to reward the bee for visiting. Apparently the bees are attracted by the bright color and visit at least a few flowers before deciding to move on to more receptive flora. Other bees come along and repeat the process. Seeds are formed after pollination, but will only sprout in soil that contains a very particular kind of fungus. No fungus, no orchids. Horticulturalists are still trying to figure out exactly what kind of fungi this little plant favors, but so far they don't know much about it except that it likes cool, moist, but not wet, shady, organic rich soil in coniferous forests. Our Calypso orchids usually bloom from March to May.

America Indians used Calypso Orchids for medicinal purposes, but we just enjoy their beauty.