Stems: with two or three membranaceous sheaths, and a linear bract at the summit Leaves: leaf solitary, broadly ovate, petioled. Flowers: drooping, pedicelled; sepals and petals lanceolate, acuminate, long lip inflated, saccate, with two short spurs below the apex.
A solid bulb and coralloid roots, a single stem sheathed by two or three loose brownish-green scales and surmounted by a single narrow bract, a solitary broad leaf at the base, and a single lovely mauvish-pink orchid blooming at the summit, - such is the Calypso.
The sepals and petals of this dainty flower are like fairy wings, its large sac, striped and mottled with deep rose colour and variegated with yellow spots, tufted by fine white hairs, resembling the body of some gay insect; thus the blossom appears to be poised lightly upon its stem like a beautiful butterfly ready to flutter away at our approach. This effect is heightened by the fact that it grows in the deep cool forests, where its exquisite fragrant flowers form the only spots of vivid colour and where it is sheltered by the vines and mosses that cluster together in those damp shady places that are the favourite haunts of this orchid. When Mrs. Hemans wrote "There's not a flower but shows some touch, In freckle, freck, or stain, Of His unrivalled pencil," she must have had in mind the marvellous painted slipper of the Calypso, for its delicate veinings in finely pencilled pattern are surely the wonderful work of the Great Master-hand.
The name Calypso denotes that the plant is dedicated to the ancient goddess of that name.