Malaxis paludosa (Bog Adder's-mouth)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
  • 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

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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.


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.

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More photos

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


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

Posted by: Angela Shogren - Iron Springs Bog, SNA
on: 2014-07-25 13:37:05

We have these in Iron Springs Bog, SNA, which is just North of Itasca State Park...if you come to see them, tread lightly...they, along with unifolia and brachypodia, can be very hard to see and are easy to step on. I'm the site steward for Iron Springs, so if you want to be sure to find them, shoot me an email and I'll be happy to try to arrange a time to come out and show you where they are.

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