Friday, May 6, 2011

Calypso bulbosa in Washington Park

I've posted a fairly detailed description of this species and its varieties previously:  I'd promised myself, however, that this year I would concentrate on getting pictures not only of the native orchids themselves, but of their habitats and here's the first post by way of keeping that resolve.

Calypso bulbosa, the Fairy Slipper, is the first of our native orchids to bloom, and if one looks in the right places it can be found in abundance.  This year I've been to Washington Park on Fidalgo Island, west of the town of Anacortes, Washington, three times to see it, though the first time I went I was a bit early and found only a single flower in bloom.

This is the variety found only west of the of the Rockies and in the North Cascades, C. bulbosa var. occidentalis, the Western Fairy Slipper.  It is easily distinguished from the eastern variety, also found here in Washington, by the white rather than yellow beard and by the brown spotting on the lip.  These differences can be seen in my previous post.

Some different views of the flowers first.  The whitish flower is either not fully open or is well past its prime, probably the latter, since most of those that I saw this color were closing and setting seed.  I keep hoping to find the very rare white (alba) form of the species, which has none of the purple or brown color at all, but all I find are these. 

As for its habitat, it seems to prefer fairly bright locations under the trees or along the roadsides where there is plenty of moss, good drainage, and  relatively flat ground.  It generally does not grow in large clumps, but in scattered groups where its requirements are met, seldom more than a few flowers close enough to get them into a picture.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this native beauty

  2. Thank you for looking and commenting.

  3. Thanks for posting this... I just snapped a bunch of pics in southern WA of these guys.... Such a gorgeous orchid!

  4. Thanks, Benjamin. Would love to see your pictures.