Malaxis monophyllos (White Adder's-mouth)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:part shade, shade; sphagnum hummocks in conifer swamps, peat soil in hardwood swamps
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:4 to 9 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] A slender spike-like raceme at the tip of the stem with 12 to 35 stalked, green to greenish white flowers each less than 1/4 inch long, on slender stalks up to 1/16 inch long. The lower lip is broad at the base and abruptly narrowed in the middle, producing a narrowly lance-shaped tip. The 3 sepals are widely spreading, generally lance to egg-shaped, tapering to a point, and slightly shorter than the lip. 2 linear lateral petals curve back behind the flower.

Leaves and stems: Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaf] A single leaf, 1 to 3 inches long, up to 1½ inches wide, elliptical to egg-shaped, sheathes the stem near the base, rarely at the base. The stem is smooth with another sheath at the base.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruit is an elliptic, ascending capsule about 1/6 inch long.


White Adder's-mouth is an inconspicuous occupant of cedar-spruce bogs and tamarack swamps in northern Minnesota. According to the DNR, while found at numerous locations, population sizes at any one spot are small, often fewer than 10 plants. It was listed as a State Special Concern species in 1996 due to its low numbers and the fragile nature of its habitat. There are 2 recognized varieties: var. brachypoda is the North American species and var. monophyllos its Eurasian counterpart. The single leaf may be mistaken for the related Green Adder's-mouth (Malaxis unifolia), which has its leaf positioned about mid-stem and a distinctly cylindrical flower cluster.

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More photos

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


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