Fairy Slipper (Calypso bulbosa)
Member of the Orchid (Orchidaceae) Family
Found at Federation Forest State Park in Enumclaw, Washington on April 18, 2015.
This lovely perennial is named after the sea nymph, Calypso, from Greek Mythology. It is said that the word Calypso means to cover, conceal or hide making it an appropriate name for this rare beauty. The delicate stem grows from a round or oval shaped corm underground. A corm is similar to a flower bulb, however it is extremely fragile. These flowers should never be picked as a simple tug on the corm can completely kill the plant. The dainty, pinkish-purple flower that sits on top of the stem resembles a “fairy slipper,” which is what it is more commonly referred to.
They can be found in a range from sea level to 5,000 feet. They enjoy the cool coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest, especially areas that are rich in leaf and animal matter. At the base of the stem is a dark green leaf that will wither in the hot summer months, but is sure to grow strong enough to last throughout the entire winter. The delicate stem is thin, soft, and almost translucent. It can grow to be 10-25 cm long.
The indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest would sparingly eat the corm as it is said to have a rich buttery taste. However, according to local folklore, when people began to homestead in the Pacific Northwest and mining towns flourished, these lovely flowers were collected in masses. They were served in salads and food dishes as garnishments. It was considered a delicacy until people realized that the flowers were not growing back. This lovely flower was nearly picked to extinction. If you ever see one of these rare beauties, please, do not pick it! For if you pick it, it will surely die.
Thanks for reading! Share the love of nature with others 🙂