Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the May 24, 2009 Newsletter, issued from the Siskiyou Mountains west of Grants Pass, Oregon:

My backpacking trip took me to the top of Onion Mountain, which tops out at 4439 feet (1353 m). On the north slope not far below the peak I passed through a cold, shadowy, moist, very quiet forest whose mossy floor in places was populated with what's shown below:

Fairy Slipper orchid, CALYPSO BULBOSA

That's the Fairy Slipper, an orchid, CALYPSO BULBOSA. Two plants are pictured, each with a single leaf and flower. The tallest plant stands about seven inches high. Fairy Orchids are widely distributed in cold, shadowy, moist, undisturbed habitats such as the one atop Onion Mountain. The species has a "circumboreal" distribution, which means that it's found in northern climes in Eurasia as well as the Americas. It occurs all through Canada and in the northernmost US states.

However, the species is very susceptible to being disturbed. It's listed as threatened in Michigan, Vermont and Wisconsin, and endangered in New Hampshire and New York. It doesn't transplant well to gardens because in Nature it depends on a mycorrhizal relationship with specific soil fungi. The Thompson Indians of British Columbia used it traditionally as a treatment for epilepsy. It practices "pollination by deception," since it attracts insects who receive nothing in return.