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This map showing the global range of Calypso bulbosa orchid is from the Wiki. I am obliged to post a link and a big thanks for being allowed to use it here. The link to the Wiki site is

The wikipedia on Calypso bulbosa orchid

Calypso bulbosa Orchid

Seed Information

Orchid seed are the tiniest in the world and each seed capsule produces them in the thousands. They can float and fly on the wind for miles and hitch rides on anything that moves. For this reason I have enclosed sowing instructions for handling this tiny and wild seed. See the link on the left for How To Sow. Some of the seed may germinate the first year, some may germinate later. The seed has a reported viability of 6 years. How much seed to apply is up to you. I recommend at least one seed per inch. Calypso does not mind having her bulbs crowded and in nature makes dense colonies.


Do you have the habitat for naturalizing this forest dwelling, shade loving, miniature hardy terrestrial orchid?

If you are lucky enough to have a shady forest and trees in your landscape that support Calypso and her essential fungal partner then most of the work is done! Navigate your way back to About the Orchid and use the links on that page for further research on tree types in your area. Here in Northern California this is the redwood and fir forest. Calypso bulbosa var:occidentalis will form tight mats and a large colony. Calypso has a glistening white lower lip that is deeply spotted with rich burgundy to salmon and a sparkling white beard, topped with petals and sepals of orchid pink this orchid is small, about two inches across the single flower, and exquisite.

Sown in the right place this orchid is tough and prolific. This miniature terrestrial orchid is very well named. Homer's Odyssey is an excellent source for one tale of the myth concerning Kalypso of ancient Greece. Much in the way of new mythology is hatching on the web and you are advised to look for the simple truth of how the goddess is universally depicted. Also, Calypso is a deceptive pollinator, attracting the bumble bee with color and fragrance and offering no nectar. There are many interesting facts you will find if you choose to explore repatriating and naturalizing Calypso on your property or preserve.

Tips for Growing Calypso bulbosa Orchid

Once you have determined that Calypso is historically native to your area you are ready to become an observer of your prospective area for naturalizing. Here it is important to find the place that most suits Calypso. In a perfect world this would be where you want the plants to adorn your garden but in fact that is not where the orchid usually wants to be. The places where Calypso is most happy are a little like the Greek home of the nymph Kalypso, hidden. Much of the work with Calypso is finding the right spot. If you are truly observant nature will do all the work after you sow the seed. Nothing will be required of you except to protect the bed from predators and foot traffic. If the seed successfully completes the required minimum 70 to 75 weeks to two years of underground development, you may see your first tiny leaf in the winter of the following year after sowing in the fall. You will see nothing happening for at least a year and 5 months after you sow the seed.

Take a close look at your site and find the perfect spot or spots to sow the orchid seed. The best places are often invisible at first. It is necessary to become an observer in all seasons. You must imagine the quality of shade and light, the absence of standing water, Calypso prefers a slight to deep slope, and the availability of the right leaf fall from the right trees and forest debris to cool and nourish the developing Calypso protocorms and the symbiotic fungus essential to the germination, growth and maturation of this orchid. Calypso loves the presence of rotting wood natural to a forest floor and prefers about 60 percent shade. A little dappled sun is all right, even direct morning or afternoon light, but the greenest largest leaf will develop and live longer in complete or at least 60 percent shade.

Be particularly careful not to have tough broadleaf tree leaves carried onto the seeded areas by wind or nearby trees . Here in California the tough Madrone leaves falling in the spring can smother the tiny leaves and flowers and eventually push Calypso out of a niche. Calypso loves to be under cool, shady, coniferous trees. The conifers have needle like leaf types whereas broadleaf trees can smother and suffocate the orchid. Calypso will not tolerate soil temperatures over 60 degrees for long periods in her summer dormant period. Rain is unusual here in the summer and the beds become very dry. In fact when I put the soil moisture gage in the soil for testing around my plants and seed beds last August I thought it was in need of new batteries because the needle never budged from zero. I took the moisture meter down to change the batteries and discovered it doesn't use batteries. The beds are just that dry! The naturally occurring fungus will support Calypso through the year and especially through the droughts of summer, even through a season of lazy dormancy with no signs of growth above ground.


Protecting Seeded Areas


Here I will discuss predators and the need to protect your seeded area right from the start. A successful colony of Calypso will last for years, in fact no research known to me has determined how long the bulbs live. Evidence points to a long lifespan and annual vegetative bulb growth, a renewing life cycle for this terrestrial orchid and I believe a long life for individuals and the colony. Successful colonies can spare the loss of a few individual plants here and there to predation and continue to thrive. The larger the colony the more resilient it is to trampling and foraging. Huge colonies in Alaska and Canada, for example, are regularly grazed by moose and other animals, even some Native Tribes have a taste for the bulbs. You, however, need serious protection for several years in order to get the colony established. The first year and a half to two years after sowing it will appear that nothing is going on. This may be true, but, if you have chosen a perfect site and the stars are favoring your project, be patient.

You may after a long wait, see the first tiny leaf emerge from the deep leaf cover on the forest floor. The leaf is about the size of your little fingernail, tiny. It will get larger as the bulbs develop. A good snail and slug bait or barrier must be present at all times. You must also have, depending on your area, protection from deer, rats, squirrels, wild pigs, moose, some birds,and any compaction from foot traffic, animals grazing and equipment movements. Never water your seed bed with well or city water. Use only rainwater or distilled water if you choose to water at all. Natural leaf fall from the correct host trees will nourish and cool the developing seed and the partner fungus. Never fertilize Calypso. The falling debris from the tree partner collecting on the seedbed, or placed there by you at the appropriate time, will be exactly the balance of nutrients needed. Calypso has evolved in partnership with the natural cycles of the fungus and host trees and seasonal cycles of growth and decay. If you have chosen the area to be seeded wisely and carefully, provided protection from any disturbance, and carefully applied the seed without touching it with your skin, you are ready for the long wait for the tiny leaf to maybe emerge in about 70-75 weeks to two years after germination.


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