The fairy slipper orchid, which has been called the most beautiful terrestrial orchid in North America (4), bears a single, showy flower on a single, dainty, purple stem (4) (5) (6). The petals and sepals of each intricate and colourful flower are held above a large, highly-modified petal (called the lip) like a crown (2) (7). The lip is a slipper-shaped pouch, hence this plant's common name (2). The flowers, which emit a distinct, pleasant, vanilla-like aroma (4) (5), range in colour from rich purple, through shades of pink to white and are lightly veined (2) (4), while the lip is white to purple with purplish spots, and the inside of the pouch is lined with purple to reddish veins (2) (4). The area near the throat of the pouch is decorated with three ridges, bearing white or yellow hairs (2) (4). Each plant has a single, dark green, oval leaf measuring up to 3.5 centimetres long (2) (6). Both the single leaf and flower stem rise from a shallow corm, with few, short and slender roots (2) (4). On blooming plants it is sometimes possible to see the top of the corm (4). The species name bulbosa refers to the bulb-like nature of the corms (2), while Caplypso comes from the name of the sea nymph in Homer's Odyssey (5). Four varieties of the fairy slipper orchid are recognised, each differing slightly in their appearance (2).
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