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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 26 | Orchidaceae

54. Malaxis Solander ex Swartz, Prodr. 8, 119. 1788.

Adder’s-mouth [Greek malaxis, softening, in reference to soft and tender texture of leaves]

Paul M. Catling & Lawrence K. Magrath

Herbs, terrestrial to semiepiphytic, glabrous. Roots few, fibrous, 0.3–1 mm wide. Stems swollen at base into pseudobulb, ± globose, glabrous. Leaves 1–3(–5), with sheathing base; blade elliptic, ovate, or lanceolate. Inflorescences terminal, racemes, spicate racemes, corymbose racemes, or subumbellate racemes; floral bracts inconspicuous, lanceolate, subulate, or triangular-acuminate. Flowers 2–160, resupinate or not, erect or spreading, sessile or minutely to strongly pedicellate; sepals spreading, distinct or lateral sepals basally connate, ovate, elliptic, or lanceolate, 1–6 mm, margins revolute or not; petals spreading or recurved, filiform to linear, lanceolate, or triangular, usually much narrower than sepals; lip ovate or lanceolate, cordate, unlobed to 3-lobed, concave or saccate, widest proximal to middle, base auriculate or truncate; column free; anther terminal; pollinaria 4, waxy; 1 pollinarium or 2 separate hemipollinaria; viscidia yellow or orange. Fruits capsules; previous year’s fruiting stem and capsules frequently present during current year’s anthesis. x = 14, 15, 18, ca. 20, ca. 21, 22.

Species ca. 250 (10 in the flora): widespread, mostly in Asia and East Indies.


Ames, O. and C. Schweinfurth. 1935. Nomenclatural studies in Malaxis and Spiranthes. Bot. Mus. Leafl. 3: 113–133. Catling, P. M. 1991. Systematics of Malaxis bayardii and M. unifolia. Lindleyana 6: 3–23.

1 Leaves 2–3(–5).   (2)
+ Leaves 1(–2, rarely).   (4)
2 (1) Lip 2.5–2.9(–4) mm, base prominently cordate-auriculate.   1 Malaxis spicata
+ Lip 1.2–2.5 mm, base truncate or cuneate.   (3)
3 (2) Leaves basal; base of lip cuneate; flowers not resupinate.   2 Malaxis paludosa
+ Leaves cauline; base of lip truncate, 3-lobed, lateral lobes auriculate; flowers resupinate.   3b var. brachypoda
4 (1) Lip 3-dentate at apex, middle tooth smallest, sometimes so inconspicuous that apex appears 2-dentate.   (5)
+ Lip unlobed (with or without single point) at apex.   (7)
5 (4) Flowers apparently sessile, pedicels 1.3–1.7 mm; flowers not resupinate.   4 Malaxis soulei
+ Flowers clearly pedicellate, pedicels 3.4–10(–13) mm; flowers resupinate.   (6)
6 (5) Lip with auricles 0.6 or more times as long as distance from base of lip to apex of middle lobe.   5 Malaxis bayardii
+ Lip with auricles less than 0.6 times as long as distance from base of lip to apex of middle lobe.   6 Malaxis unifolia
7 (4) Lip base truncate with prominent, forward-directed auricles; flowers not resupinate.   3a var. monophyllos
+ Lip base cordate or hastate-auriculate; flowers resupinate.   (8)
8 (7) Inflorescences 1.5–3 cm; pedicels crowded.   7 Malaxis corymbosa
+ Inflorescence 2.6–25 cm; pedicels not crowded.   (9)
9 (8) Sepals 4–6 mm.   9 Malaxis abieticola
+ Sepals 1.8–2.4 mm.   (10)
10 (9) Sepals glabrous, not papillose; apex of lip broadly acuminate, auricles at base narrow and parallel.   10 Malaxis porphyrea
+ Sepals papillose, not glabrous; apex of lip narrowly acuminate, auricles at base broad and diverging.   8 Malaxis wendtii

  • List of lower taxa


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