Calypso Flower

During our walk along the Schwarz Campground interpretive trail, I discovered that the Calypso flowers are currently in bloom. These are one of my favorite wild flowers (although, admittedly I have many favorites!).

Calypso Flower

This delicate looking plant is a native orchid. And although it is depends on a specific fungus in the soil to grow, we must have a lot of that fungus in our local woods because I see them regularly in the spring. This photo was taken last year at Wilson Creek Park along Cottage Grove Lake. Other nearby places that I’ve seen them are along the Row River Trail (as it passes Dorena Reservoir), and of course at Schwarz Campground.

I’m not the first person to be enamored with the Calypso flower. John Muir found it on his first botanizing trip in 1864 in a swamp in Ontario Canada. In The Life and Letters of John Muir, he writes “The rarest and most beautiful of the flowering plants I discovered on this first grand excursion was Calypso borealis…..This Calypso meeting happened some forty-five years ago, and it was more memorable and impressive than any of my meetings with human beings excepting, perhaps, Emerson and one or two others.” After finding the Calypso flower he wrote about it to one of his old professors, who sent John’s letter to “an Eastern newspaper [The Boston Recorder] with some comments of his own.” It became the first of John Muir’s words to appear in print.

I also know that my grandmother loved this flower as well. She tried repeatedly to transplant one into her yard (where she grew many native plants and flowers). She was never successful and eventually surmised that it had a symbiotic relationship with something in the soil. Of course, that was back in a time when it was acceptable to dig plants from the woods. Now we know that it is best to enjoy them where they are.

13 thoughts on “Calypso Flower



      • I’m ot so sure Lady Slippers and Calypso are the same flower.

        Of the Calypso, Wikipedia says: “It is the only species currently classified in the genus Calypso, which takes its name from the Greek signifying concealment, as they tend to favor sheltered areas on conifer forest floors.”

        Wikipedia also says the genus of Lady Slippers is “Paphiopedilum.”

        I never got to go flower picking with grandma Castle. 😦
        Russ apparently did.


      • That’s the problem with common names — like Lady Slippers. While Russ, myself and Janet (below) grew up calling them Lady Slippers that name means other things in other regions. It’s why I went with the scientific name “Calypso” instead. (And because Calypso is such a nice name!).


      • Oh, I think they need a paint color that purple called ‘Calypso’. Or a lipstick. It just sounds beautiful.


    • I should also note that picking Calypso flowers is very much discouraged now-days as it often kills the plant. Back in our grandparents’ day this probably wasn’t a big problem since we had so many wild areas, but now with habitat given over to so many other uses, it is best to just admire them where they are.


  2. My favorite too! Ok Trilliums are right up there. We grew up calling them Lady Slippers. I’m hoping I can buy both and a Dogwood for our new back yard in Lakewood. A few sword ferns won’t be amiss either. The yard currently is all nursery non-local plants. Of course I have to wait till we move in next June and we have the siding and paint done – now I’m sidetracked. Love the flowers. Janet


    • I’m glad others grew up calling them Lady Slippers as well. When I did searches on them by that name, I was coming up with totally different flowers. I’ve never seen Calypso Flowers for sale, probably because of their dependence on the fungus in the soil. But sword ferns and Trilliums definitely are. And I’m starting to see dog tooth violet for sale too (a.k.a., fawn lilies).


      • I always heard the “official” name was Deer Head orchid. Does that sound familiar? Glad to hear Dogwood and Trilliums are available.


      • According to my wildflower book (National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers) the “official” or scientific name is Calypso bulbosa. And Calypso flower is what I most commonly saw it called on the Internet. Fairy Slipper, Lady Slipper, and Deer Head orchid, I believe are all common names which probably change by what region of the country you are in.


      • Aaahhhh, local lingo. It’s nice to know the right name, even if I use the local one. Hard to converse or locate flowers or information on them without the real name. I admire the work put in to locate the botanical names. Keep up the great work! I know I have more wrong names and info. Even if I got it right when I was young, age has made it “not quite what I thought”. And it’s not just flowers….LOL


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