Monday, May 20, 2013
Slipper Gems of the Forest
The first thing I did when I got out of the pick-up truck was to walk behind the woodshed. There's a shady trail there, and it is usually where I find the first Calypso Lady-slipper Orchids of the season. I thought it might be a bit early yet, but I was pleasantly surprised. I found one of these pretty purple gems nestled next to a wild ginger plant. If there's one, there has to be more, so the search was on! Before the day was over I'd found many groupings of them as I traipsed through the woods. They could be found in hollows and in groupings along the forest floor.
The scientific name of this tiny flower is Calypso Bulbosa. But, my mother always called them Lady-slipper Orchids because of the unique shape of the blossom, so that's the name I know it by. Doesn't it look like the elegant slipper that a lady would wear? It's also called a Fairy-slipper Orchid or Hider-of-the-North.
This orchid is very tiny, standing no more than 20 cm tall with a blossom that is about 3 cm long. The blossom droops, facing the earth, making it difficult to see its full beauty. It's a flower that I usually don't pick, because it's somewhat rare and if the blossom is picked the plant may not regrow next season. So, they are a cherished and charmed little plant in our woods.
The Western Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis is found only in the Cascade mountain range and west of the Rockies in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, and Montana. It is distinguished by a white beard and a heavily spotted lip in a purple-brown color.
I call them "little gems" because they are such beautiful treasures of the forest. Their life span is short and they appear only for a few weeks in the springtime. Taking pictures of them is a huge challenge for me. Essentially, I have to nearly stand on my head to get a picture! Because their blossoms droop, they photograph best from the ground up. Have you tried taking a picture from ground level recently? And was it in focus? Yikes! It's a tough assignment. The experience was a reminder that I am not a teen-ager any more!