Are you heading out to Take a Hike With Your Children this weekend? Keep an eye out for these beautiful Calypso Orchids, also called Fairy Slippers and Venus Slippers. There growing season is from mid-May to early June.
Where To Find Them
You will find clusters of these beautiful flowers in the Lodgepole pine needles that blanket the Montane forest floor. They prefer shady locations, and the canopy of the Lodgepole pine trees provide that. I saw these particular orchids along the Spray River Loop in Banff National Park
A Deceptive Yet Clever Pollination Strategy
These flowers are beautiful, and are very smart when it comes to their pollination strategy. They have a slight vanilla smell to them, and their beauty and vibrant colour attracts the bees to them.
Excited for a sweet reward, the bee crawls into the orchid and soon discovers that there isn’t any nectar in the flower. The bee moves onto the next orchid in search of a sweet reward, but is disappointed yet again. In the meantime, the Calypso Orchid’s strategy has been working, as the bee has been gathering and dispersing pollen to the other orchids. After several failed attempts to get nectar, the bee moves to a different species of flower.
The Nlaka’pamux , previously known as the Thompson River Indians, used the plant as a treatment for mild epilepsy. The bulb would be chewed, or the flowers sucked upon to help reduce seizures. Other Native groups used the tiny bulbs as a food source. ( source: Mountain nature.com)
Fungus is their Friend
Calypso orchid seeds do not provide a lot of nutrients for the plant. To assist with this lack of nutrients, the Orchids have developed a mutually beneficial relationship, also called a Symbiotic relationship, with the Mycorrhizae (“Mycor” –“rhiza”) fungus.
The Mycorrhizae. Com website explains this relationship best:
“Mycor” – “rhiza” literally means “fungus” – “root” and describes the mutually beneficial relationship between the plant and root fungus. These specialized fungi colonize plant roots and extend far into the soil. Mycorrhizal fungal filaments in the soil are truly extensions of root systems and are more effective in nutrient and water absorption than the roots themselves. More than 90 percent of plant species in natural areas form a symbiotic relationship with the beneficial mycorrhizal fungi.”
Take a Hike Soon and Take Only Pictures
These flowers have been in bloom the last few weeks, and will be coming to the end of their blooming life soon, so I hope you get a chance to get out and see them.
They are beautiful, and it would be very tempting to pick just one….however….it is illegal to pick any wildflowers, so please take a picture….take many!