Tiptoeing Past Fairyslippers

Fairyslippers (Calypso bulbosa)
Looking down at a pair of Fairyslippers (Calypso bulbosa). The challenge was to get a composition with the flower and the leaf below.

This is definitely the time of year to look for Fairyslippers (Calypso bulbosa) in the dark, damp forests of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. These beautiful orchids are often missed, so slow down and keep your eyes open for the small, delicate flowers near the edges of forest trails.

Fairyslippers (Calypso bulbosa)
A pair of Fairyslippers (Calypso bulbosa) on the Karst Creek Trail. There was one section of the trail with at least a dozen flowers in one small area.

Today I had a day to myself and headed up to Strathcona Provincial Park to look for spring flowers. One of my favourite, though under-maintained, front country trails is the Karst Creek Trail. It winds its way through an old forest fire burn to a spectacular waterfall. It’s usually great for both birding and botanizing. The karst landscape makes for interesting geology as well.

Fairyslipper (Calypso bulbosa)
A single Fairyslipper (Calypso bulbosa) – the second flower is just out of the frame of this picture, hence the two leaves.

My focus was on wildflowers and I noticed many Fairyslippers were in bloom in the moist rich soil of the creek gully. This orchid has a single rose-purple/deep pink flower with a lower lip that is paler and spotted with purple. A double spur is visible below the lip.

Fairyslipper (Calypso bulbosa)
A frontal look at the lower lip – note the spotting, the fringes and the double spur (just peeking out from behind the lip).

Below the flower at ground level is a single oval shaped leaf that is dark green in colour.

Fairyslipper (Calypso bulbosa) Leaf
A closeup detail of the leaf – the flower stalk is just out of the frame of the picture.

Fairyslippers are extremely delicate and picking the flower or trampling them can break the roots, effectively killing the plant. When photographing them take care not to disturb the plant.

Fairyslipper (Calypso bulbosa)
A side profile of the Calypso orchid showing the large slipper-like lower lip.

I spent a couple of hours on the Karst Creek Trail and the Lupin Falls Trail getting down to eye level with these delightful flowers. It was a splendid way to spend a morning!

Additional Reading:

If you’re interested in propagating these orchids please do not harvest them from the wild as attempting to move the plant will likely separate the corm from the brittle roots. Check out the Calypso Orchid blog which details how to raise these orchids from seed. The Calypso Orchid Company (same author as the blog) sells seed – this would be a good starting place if you’re determined to raise your own. Note that I haven’t purchased seed from these folks so can’t verify their reputation.

If you want to check out more macro photography head on over to Lisa’s Chaos and Macro Monday!