Malaxis paludosa (Bog Adder's-mouth)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Malaxis
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Status:
  • State Endangered
Habitat:part shade, shade; sphagnum hummocks in conifer swamps
Bloom season:July - August
Plant height:3 to 9 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] A slender, spike-like raceme of 10 to 30 tiny green to greenish yellow flowers on stalks less than 1/8 inch long, evenly spaced at the top of the stem. The 3 sepals are each up to 1/8 inch long and elliptical to egg-shaped pointed at the tip, 2 nearly erect at the top of the flower and 1 hanging straight down. The 3 petals are generally egg-shaped and about half the size of the sepals; the lip (at the top) typically has darker green veins and an abrupt point at the tip, the 2 lateral petals curve back behind the flower.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] 2 to 5 leaves surround a thickened, bulb-like growth (pseudobulb) at the base of the stem. Leaves are ½ to ¾ inch long (rarely to 1 inch), up to 3/8 inch wide, generally elliptical or widest above the middle, sheathing the stem.

[photo of embryos] A tiny cluster of bulblets (embryos) may be at the leaf tip. Stems are smooth and mostly erect.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is an elliptic, ascending capsule about 1/6 inch long.

Notes:

This is considered to be one of the rarest orchids in North America, if not the rarest; it was unknown on the continent until it was discovered in Otter Tail County in 1904. According to the DNR, it was listed as a State Endangered Species in 1984. Under the best conditions it is extremely difficult to spot; the small leaves are often hidden under the moss, leaving just the slender, green spike poking a few inches into the air.

Please visit our sponsors

  • Wild Ones Twin Cities Chapter

Where to buy native seed and plants ↓

Map of native plant purveyors in the upper midwest

  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land
  • Landscape Alternatives - Distinctive Native Plants since 1986!
  • Shop for native seeds and plants at PrairieMoon.com!
  • Shooting Star Native Seeds - Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Seeds
  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants

More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Hubbard County. Photos courtesy John Thayer taken in Chippewa National Forest, Itasca County.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Jim Cramton - Bemidji
on: 2018-07-20 09:35:31

Whitfield, Rowe, Lee, and Smith 2015 gives Itasca and Koochiching counties as having populations of M. paludosa.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-07-20 10:33:58

Jim, that may be true but MNTaxa has not been updated to reflect that nor are there any records for those counties in the Bell Herbarium, except for one undated entry for Koochiching that includes no info other than species name, so is unconfirmed. Those are the main sources of info for our distribution maps.

Posted by: Robert Freeman - Northern Minnesota
on: 2018-09-30 22:04:28

Jim, this plant is in both of the Counties you listed. I am a member of the North American Native Orchid Conference and we have been searching and studying this plant for the past 21 years. To date we have found at least 17 different locations for it all across Northern MN. Due to its small size it is often overlooked even by the trained and seasoned botanist. One must develop a schema for this plant as the odds of finding it will increase. Globally the plant is secure, and in time the US populations will be better documented. It is pollinated by a fungus gnat (Phronia digitata) The three listed Adder’s Mouth orchids in our state can be seen growing together on one hummock if you’re lucky to see it. Unfortunately, that is as close of a relationship those orchids will share as the correct name is now Hammarbya paludosa, the poor little fellow is not only the smallest Native Orchid, he is also the only representative in his Genus Hammarbya.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.



(required)




Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.