Flowers 1 to 2 in. long, bright purple pink, solitary, violet scented, rising from between a pair of small scales at end of smooth scape from 5 to 10 in. high. Lip dropping beneath sepals and petals, broad, rounded, toothed, or fringed, blotched with purple, and with three hairy ridges down its surface. Leaf: Solitary, hidden at first, coming after the flower, but attaining length of 6 in. Root: Bulbous. Fruit: A 6-ribbed capsule, 1 in. long, rarely maturing.
Preferred HabitatNorthern bogs and swamps.
Flowering SeasonMay June.
DistributionFrom North Carolina and Indiana northward to the Fur Countries.
One flower to a plant, and that one rarely maturing seed ; a temptingly beautiful prize which few refrain from carrying home, to have it wither on the way ; pursued by that more persistent lover than Alpheus, the orchid-hunter who exports the bulbs to European collectorslittle wonder this exquisite orchid is rare, and that from certain of those cranberry bogs of Eastern New England, which it formerly brightened with its vivid pink, it has now gone forever. Like Arethusa, the nymph whom Diana changed into a fountain that she might escape from the infatuated river god, Linnaeus fancied this flower a maiden in the midst of a spring bubbling from wet places where presumably none may follow her.
But the bee, our Arethusa’s devoted lover, although no villain, still pursues her. He knows that moisture-loving plants secrete the most nectar. When the head of the bee enters the flower to sip, nothing happens ; but as he raises his head to depart, it cannot help lifting the lid of the helmet-shaped anther and so letting fall a few soft pellets of pollen on it. Now, after he has drained the next arethusa, his pollen-laden head must rub against the long sticky stigma before it touches the helmet-like anther lid and precipitates another volley of pollen. In some such manner most of our orchids compel insects to work for them in preventing self-fertilization.
Another charming, but much smaller, orchid, that we must don our rubber boots to find where it hides in cool, peaty bogs from Canada and the Northern United States to California, and southward in the Rockies to Arizona, is the Calypso (Calypso bulbosa). It is a solitary little flower, standing out from the top of a jointed scape that never rises more than six inches from the solid bulb, hidden in the moss, nor boasts more than one nearly round leaf near its base. The blossom itself suggests one of the lady’s slipper orchids, with its rosy purple, narrow, pointed sepals and petals clustered at the top above a large, sac-shaped, whitish lip. The latter is divided into two parts, heavily blotched with cinnamon brown, and woolly with a patch of yellow hairs near the point of the division.