Orchidaceae — Earth’s Most Beautiful Orchids
Calypso bulbosa -- calypso orchid
Calypso bulbosa — calypso orchid
Calypso is a genus of orchids containing one species, Calypso bulbosa, known as the calypso orchid, fairy slipper or Venus’s slipper. It is a perennial member of the orchid family found in undisturbed northern and montane forests. It has a small pink, purple, pinkish-purple, or red flower accented with a white lip, darker purple spottings, and yellow beard.
The genus Calypso takes its name from the Greek signifying concealment, as they tend to favor sheltered areas on conifer forest floors. The specific epithet, bulbosa, refers to the bulb-like corms.
Calypso orchids are typically 10 to 14 cm in height. Their bright pink blooms 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. The plants live no more than five years.
This species’ range is circumpolar, and includes California, the Rocky Mountain states and most of the most northerly states of the United States; most of Canada; Scandinavia much of European and Asiatic Russia; China, Mongolia, Korea and Japan—see external links for map.
Although the calypso orchid’s distribution is wide, it is very susceptible to disturbance, and is therefore classified as threatened or endangered in several U. S. states and in Sweden and Finland. It does not transplant well owing to its mycorrhizal dependence on specific soil fungi.
The corms have been used as a food source by North American native peoples. The Thompson River Indians of British Columbia used it as a treatment for mild epilepsy.
At least near Banff, Alberta, the calypso orchid is pollinated by bumble bees. It relies on “pollination by deception”, as it attracts insects to anther-like yellow hairs at the entrance to the pouch and forked nectary-like structures at the end of the pouch but produces no nectar that would nourish them.
Insects quickly learn not to revisit it. Avoiding such recognition may account for some of the small variation in the flower’s appearance.
The Orchidaceae are a diverse and widespread family of flowering plants, with blooms that are often colourful and fragrant, commonly known as the orchid family.
Along with the Asteraceae, they are one of the two largest families of flowering plants. The Orchidaceae have about 28,000 currently accepted species, distributed in about 763 genera.
The determination of which family is larger is still under debate, because verified data on the members of such enormous families are continually in flux. Regardless, the number of orchid species is nearly equal to the number of bony fishes, more than twice the number of bird species, and about four times the number of mammal species.
The family encompasses about 6–11% of all seed plants.
The largest genera are Bulbophyllum (2,000 species), Epidendrum (1,500 species), Dendrobium (1,400 species) and Pleurothallis (1,000 species). It also includes Vanilla (the genus of the vanilla plant), the type genus Orchis, and many commonly cultivated plants such as Phalaenopsis and Cattleya.
Moreover, since the introduction of tropical species into cultivation in the 19th century, horticulturists have produced more than 100,000 hybrids and cultivars.