Malaxis unifolia (Green Adder's-mouth)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; coniferous bogs and swamps, open upland woods
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:4 to 11 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
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] Typically a thimble sized club or cylindrical raceme up to 5 inches (1 to 13 cm) long of 10 to 100+ green flowers less than 1/8 inch long, on slender stalks much longer than the flowers. The lower lip is divided into 2 lobes; 3 upper sepals spread out, with 2 thread-like lateral petals. Flowers stalks are twisted with flowers frequently held sideways.

Leaves and stem: Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaf] A single leaf is attached at about mid-stem, egg-shaped to elliptical with a blunt or pointed tip, 2/3 to 4 inches (1.6 to 10 cm) long, ½ to 2 inches (to 5 cm) wide, sheathing the stem. The stem is smooth with another sheath at the base. 

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a round to ellipic, spreading to slightly drooping capsule, about 1/3 inch (8 mm) long at maturity, filled with dust-like seed.


Another one of our midget orchids, Green Adder's-mouth may be more common in southern areas of the state than records indicate, but color and stature make it a difficult observation. While there are other orchid species with a single leaf, and some with leaves attached just at mid-stem, Green Adder's-mouth and the related White Adder's-mouth (Malaxis monophyllos) are the only ones in Minnesota with a single leaf that's not basal. When flowering, the cylindrical cluster of relatively long-stalked flowers is unique among Minnesota's orchids and distinguishes Green Adder's-mouth from the rest.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Carlton County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk, taken at a private wet meadow/woodlot in Lino Lakes, and in Hubbard County.


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

Posted by: Gary - Carlton County
on: 2021-12-21 10:31:13

There are several of these tiny orchids growing in an old field on my property with blueberry bushes and bracken fern.

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