Calypso bulbosa
fairy slipper

Alaska Wildflowers | Pink

Calypso bulbosa fairy slipper

Calypso bulbosa
fairy slipper

Common Names

calypso bulbeux
calypso bulbeuse
calypso
fairy slipper
fairy slipper orchid
Venus’ slipper

Synonyms

Cypripedium bulbosum
Cytherea bulbosa

Subspecies

Calypso bulbosa var. americana
Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis (western fairy slipper, Pacific fairy slipper)
both subtaxa are present in Alaska

Genus: Calypso
Family: Orchidaceae
Order: Asparagales
taxonomic heirarchy

Duration – Growth Habit

Perennial – Forb/herb

Identification and Information

Calypso bulbosa, commonly known as fairy slipper, is a small perennial orchid growing from a fleshy bulb, a globe-shaped or cylindrical corm. It has a single, long-stalked basal leaf that is elliptic, ovate, or cordate (heart-shaped), and has parallel veins. The flowering stem is solitary, leafless, has 2-3 brown sheaths, and grows up to 20 cm tall.



The solitary, terminal flower is bilaterally symmetric and very showy. Its uppermost petals and sepals are erect and spreading, narrowly lanceolate, pink or magenta, with three distinct veins, and 12-24 mm long. The lip is nodding, slipper-shaped, pouched, yellow in the center, and variously spotted or streaked a darker purple.

Two varieties of Calypso bulbosa are present in Alaska. Calypso bulbosa var. americana features yellow bristles on the lip and horns that are equal to or longer than the lamina, which is the main, flat part of the lip. Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis is distinguished by its whitish bristles on the lip, with the lamina typically shorter than the horns.


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Uses

For information only (typically historical) – I take no responsibility for adverse effects from the use of any plant.

No culinary uses were found. There are two listings in the Native American Ethnobotany Database, one used as charms for an unspecified purpose, and the bulbs chewed, or flowers sucked for mild epilepsy (Thompson Ethnobotany: Knowledge and Usage of Plants by the Thompson Indians of British Columbia – See references below).


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Distribution and Habitat

Map data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), NatureServe Explorer, and Kew

Calypso bulbosa has a wide geographic distribution, spanning Alaska, much of Canada, the western United States, select northern Midwest states, and Maine, although it is presumed extirpated in Vermont and New York. Internationally, this orchid is found across northern Eurasia, including Russia, Finland, and Sweden, and extending into Mongolia and parts of China and Japan.

It tends to live in mossy boreal forests, steppe, and montane zones.

Classification

RankScientific Name (Common Name)
KingdomPlantae (plantes, Planta, Vegetal, plants)
SubkingdomViridiplantae (green plants)
InfrakingdomStreptophyta (land plants)
SuperdivisionEmbryophyta 
DivisionTracheophyta (vascular plants, tracheophytes)
SubdivisionSpermatophytina (spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames)
ClassMagnoliopsida 
SuperorderLilianae (monocots, monocotyledons, monocotylédones)
OrderAsparagales 
FamilyOrchidaceae (orchids)
GenusCalypso Salisb. (calypso orchid, fairy slipper)
SpeciesCalypso bulbosa (fairyslipper, fairy-slipper orchid, fairyslipper orchid, fairy slipper)
VarietyCalypso bulbosa var. americana
VarietyCalypso bulbosa var. occidentalis 

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References and Further Reading

Guidebook

Pratt, V. E. (1989). Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers: Commonly Seen Along Highways and Byways (p. 20). Alaskakrafts, inc.

Johnson, D., Kershaw, L., & MacKinnon, A. (2020). Plants of the Western Forest: Alaska to Minnesota Boreal and Aspen Parkland (3rd ed., p. 92). Partners Publishing. ISBN 978-1772130591.

Brandenburg, D. M. 2010. National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Wildflowers of North America. Sterling Publishing. (p. 375)

Classification and Taxonomy

ITIS Report for Calypso bulbosa. Retrieved May 19, 2024, from https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=43508#null

VASCAN taxon page for Calypso bulbosa. Retrieved May 19, 2024, from https://data.canadensys.net/vascan/taxon/6839?lang=en

USDA Plants Profile for Calypso bulbosa. Retrieved May 19, 2024, from https://plants.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=CABU

Uses

Native American Ethnobotany Database search results for Calypso bulbosa. Retrieved May 19, 2024, from http://naeb.brit.org/uses/search/?string=calypso+bulbosa

Map and Distribution

GBIF species page for Calypso bulbosa. Retrieved May 19, 2024, from https://www.gbif.org/species/5323572

NatureServe Explorer page for Calypso bulbosa. Retrieved May 19, 2024, from https://explorer.natureserve.org/Taxon/ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.132752/Calypso_bulbosa

POWO taxon page for Calypso bulbosa. Retrieved May 19, 2024, from https://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:30005930-2

Description and Information

Hultén, E. (1968). Flora of Alaska and Neighboring Territories: A Manual of the Vascular Plants (1st ed.) (pg. 331). Stanford University Press.

UAF Ecological Atlas page for Calypso bulbosa. Retrieved May 19, 2024, from https://ecologicalatlas.uaf.edu/index.php/browse-plant-species/atlas-page/?nps_id=297

E-Flora BC page for Calypso bulbosa. Retrieved May 19, 2024, from https://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Calypso%20bulbosa

Flora of North America entry for Calypso bulbosa. Retrieved May 19, 2024, from http://floranorthamerica.org/Calypso_bulbosa

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