Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis, the Western Fairy Slipper, is always the first of our native orchids to bloom and can be found in bloom in our area for a period of five to six weeks, the bloom season later and later as one moves to higher elevations. It is a tiny thing, the single flowers only 3 centimeters tall and the plant seldom taller than 15-20 centimeters, and for that reason it is sometimes called "the Hider of the North." It seems to prefer more open areas in the woodlands and is often found along the trails. When the sun catches the flowers on the forest floor they glow like tiny jewels. The variety shown here is found in the Cascade Mountains and the west side of the Rockies and is much more uncommon than the other variety, the Eastern Fairy Slipper, Calypso bulbosa var. americana, which is readily distinguished by by the yellow beard and is found all across Canada and the northern USA. In some place in the Pacific Northwest, however, the western variety is very common, and it is the best known of all our native orchids. There is considerable color variation in this species from pink to a bluish-lavender and some flowers are very pale, almost white. However, the flowers turn white or tan as they fade and it is difficult to distinguish the paler forms from flowers that are going by. To complicate matters further, there is a white variety but none of the flowers shown here are that variety.
April 21 and 22
(very nearly finished at lower elevations)
(still hanging on at mid elevations)
Note: I am only going to do one post for each of our native orchids this season and so will be adding to this post from time to time.