Calypso bulbosa


Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Asparagales
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Tribe: Calypsoeae
SubTribe: Calypsoinae
Genus: Calypso
Salisb. 1807
Species: C. bulbosa
Binomial name
Calypso bulbosa
(L.) Oakes 1842

Calypso bulbosa is a small pink, purple, or red flowered (accented with white lower lip, darker purple spottings, and yellow beard) perennial member of the orchid family (Orchidaceae), and is found in undisturbed northern montane forests. It is the only species currently classified in the genus Caypso, which takes its name from the Greek signifying concealment, as they tend to favor sheltered areas on conifer forest floors.


Their tiny purple blooms, typically about 10 cm in height, can be a pleasant sporadic sight on hiking trails from late March onwards, though in the more northerly parts of their range they do not bloom until May and June. Flowers are 3.75 cm wide. Plant is evergreen and will have leaves all season.

The bulbs have been used as a food source by North American native peoples, though this is not recommended now because the sites for these plants are now rare and easily destroyed. The Thompson Indians of British Columbia used it as a treatment for epilepsy.

The Calypso Orchid relies on "pollination by deception", as it attracts insects which it does not nourish and which eventually begin to learn not to revisit it. Avoiding such recognition may account for some of the small variation in the flower's appearance.


Its range is circumpolar, and includes all the western states and most of the most northerly states of the United States. Furthermore Scandinavia (northern Sweden and Finland), northern part of European Russia and eastern Siberia and Canada from 0 - 2000 meters elevation. Two varieties are found in the USA, var. americana and var. occidentalis, which are found respectively east and west of the Sierra Nevada ranges. There exist one variety in Japan, var. speciosa which is found in moutains of the Chūbu region.

Although the calypso orchid's distribution is wide, it is very susceptible to disturbance, and is therefore classified as threatened or endangered in several states, and in Sweden and Finland as well. It is easily disturbed and does not transplant well, owing to its mycorrhizal dependence on specific soil fungi.


The Calypso orchid has difficulties surviving transplanting, so many growers grow it from seed or from flask. The plant is planted in a location with indirect sunlight where it is exposed to sun only at cool hours of the day. Water every one to two weeks and grow in a humid mix of peat and bark.


Common Name:The Bulbed Calypso, The Calypso orchid, Venus's slipper, fairy slipper


Calypso plate

Plate of Calypso bulbosa

  1. Calypso americana R.Br. in W.T.Aiton 1813
  2. Calypso borealis Salisb. 1807
  3. Calypso bulbosa f. albiflora P.M.Br. 1995
  4. Calypso bulbosa f. nivea P.M.Br. 1995
  5. Calypso bulbosa f. occidentalis Holz. 1895
  6. Calypso bulbosa subsp. occidentalis (Holz.) Calder & R.L.Taylor 1963
  7. Calypso bulbosa var. americana (R.Br.) Luer 1975
  8. Calypso bulbosa var japonica Max. 1905
  9. Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis (Holz.) Cockerell 1916
  10. Calypso japonica Maximova ex Kom. 1901
  11. Calypso occidentalis A. Heller 1898
  12. Calypso speciosa Schltr. 1919
  13. Calypsodium boreale (Sw.) Link 1829
  14. Cymbidium boreale Sw. 1799
  15. Cypripedium bulbosum L. 1753
  16. Cytherea borealis (Salisb.) Salisb. 1812
  17. Cytherea bulbosa (L.) House 1905
  18. Cytherea occidentalis (A. Heller) A. Heller 1906
  19. Cytherea speciosa (Schltr.) Makino 1929
  20. Limodorum boreale Sw. 1805
  21. Norna borealis (Salisb.) Wahlenb. 1826
  22. Orchidium americanum Steud. 1840
  23. Orchidium arcticum Sw. 1814
  24. Orchidium boreale Sw. 1814


Calypso bulbosa o Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis
((Holz.) Cockerell 1916)
Lip is spotted. Plant is found in western areas of the US
Calypso bulbosa1 Calypso bulbosa var. americana
((R.Br.) Luer 1975)
Lip is white, Plant is found in eastern areas of the US and europe
Calypso speciosa Calypso bulbosa var. speiosa
Schltr. 1919
White lip with 2 long fringes. Plant is found in Japan


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