Emerging calypsos

So if you’re a regular reader, you know I’m a big fan of calypso orchids (something I discovered I have in common with John Muir) and every spring I go out orchid hunting. This year I got special help from a biologist who gave me directions to a patch of fairy slippers close to home, just outside Nederland, about a half hour from my home in Boulder.

What he didn’t tell me was when to look for them. Fairy slipper orchids (Calypso bulbosa or Calypso borealis) bloom shortly after the snow melts, so last weekend I spent part of Saturday afternoon on my hands and knees in the woods, scouring the ground for delicate stems.

And there they were! Looking for all the world like miniature alien pods, their buds only about two inches off the ground and not yet open.

Hundreds of them arranged in eight to ten small groves of flowers—more calypso orchids than I’ve ever seen in one place, either in California, where I got to know them, or here in Colorado.

Clearly I was a bit early—but I felt just as happy as if they were in full bloom because I’d never seen them in their emerging state. And when you have friends you love, you want to know them at each stage of their lives, to witness the full spectrum of their complexity. Here was embryo stage for calypsos.

I knelt on the ground, careful to avoid the telltale greenery—a single leaf hugging each orchid stem at ground level. I curled myself around, head to the ground, to stare up close at them and focus the camera. Spine rounded and twisted, sit-bones in the air, face in the dirt looking to one side. Fairy slipper asana. The yoga of snapping flower photos at ground level.

While I was concentrating, I heard my sweetie from behind some trees: “What do we have here?” Two early bloomers in full glory.

Perhaps soon I will be able to get a camera that does them justice up close.

Calypso orchids like wet, cool ground, and they are often found close to creeks. Look for conifer trees close to a creek in boggy soil that may be thick with moss.

These photos were taken on May 5 at about 8,000 feet. Do any of you know if this is early for the fairy slippers?

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2 Responses to Emerging calypsos

  1. That is early, and lucky you, to see so many. But it’s always wonderful to see the early stages of the flower, a rare treat, I think.

  2. Deby Zimmerman says:May 14, 2012 at 11:58 am

    You saw them on my birthday!!! How beautiful and delicate looking this flower is!!! It looks like a little face on the two in bloom!! Thank you so much for sharing them on FB!!! Would never have seen them or known of them otherwise!!!