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Calypso bulbosa (Fairy slipper)
McAdoo, David R.

Calypso bulbosa

Calypso bulbosa (L.) Oakes

Fairy Slipper

Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N)

Calypso bulbosa is chlorophyllous but also hemi-mycoheterotrophic; that is, it makes it own food, but also utilizes at least one fungus species to provide some of its carbon intake. The known fungi involved is Thanatephorus ochraceus, a saprotroph.

A single mostly pink bilateral pendant flower with an inflated, slipper-like lip petal hangs at tip of an erect, reddish flower stalk that grows above 1 basal leaf.

This short perennial rises from a small tuber and is the only species in this genus. Named for the sea nymph Calypso of Homer's Odyssey, who detained the willing Odysseus on his return from Troy; like Calypso, the plant is beautiful and prefers secluded haunts.


From the Image Gallery

6 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 9 inches tall.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Pink , Yellow , Purple
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun
Bloom Notes: Rarely white.


USA: AK , AZ , CA , CO , ID , ME , MI , MN , MT , NH , NM , NY , OR , SD , UT , VT , WA , WI , WY
Canada: AB , BC , MB , NB , NL , NS , NT , NU , ON , QC , SK , YT
Native Distribution: Across Canada and northern United States to Arizona, New Mexico, New York, and New England.
Native Habitat: Thick duff and mossy ground in cool, damp, mainly coniferous woods.

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Alkaline (pH>7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: High


Conspicuous Flowers: yes

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Calypso bulbosa in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Calypso bulbosa in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Calypso bulbosa


Record Modified: 2023-04-24
Research By: TWC Staff

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