Butano State Park, midway between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, is prized for the diversity of its habitats and wildlife, and for the depth of its solitude.
But what makes this place so special — from about February through March — are the wild orchids (Calypso bulbosa), if you’re lucky enough to spot one while on a hike.
Rather rare in the area, the native purple calypso orchids are also called "Fairy Slippers" and have 2-inch flowers, purple petals and sepals, and a patterned lip. Named after the Greek oceanid nymph, Kalypso, who lived in peaceful isolation in a luxurious cave on an island called Ogygia, the Calypso orchid prefers solitude in undisturbed forest regions.
It's illegal to take orchids from the park and if dug up, they won’t survive anyway. The plant needs a certain mycorrhizal fungus to thrive, found only in the native soil in which it grows.
March is really when Calypso orchids come out, but a small colony of them have been spotted earlier and in four varied colors. January at Butano is the time to photograph mushrooms, spot newts in February and more likely see orchids in full bloom in March, so mark your calendar.
Hiking conditions this time of year will be wet and muddy in the Santa Cruz Mountains but well worth the effort when you come upon a dainty orchid growing in the wild.
Butano State Park is in San Mateo County, located at 1500 Cloverdale Road in Pescadero. The park features miles of hiking trails, 21 drive-in campsites and 18 walk-in campsites. More information can be found here.
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