ghost orchid

Florida Adder's Mouth (Malaxis spicata)

Part of the Florida's Native and Naturalized Orchids Website

Classification:
  Kingdom:   Plantae - Plants
    Subkingdom:   Tracheobionta - Vascular Plants
      Superdivision:   Spermatophyta - Seed plants
        Division:   Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
          Class:   Liliopsida - Monocotyledons
            Subclass:   Liliidae - Subclass containing lily and orchid relatives
              Order:   Orchidales - Orchid order
                Family:   Orchidaceae - Orchid Family
                  Subfamily:   Epidendroideae -
                    Tribe:   Malaxideae - Malaxids
                      Subtribe:   Malaxidinae - Malaxis and related


Distribution Map:
Distribution map for Florida Adder's Mouth (Malaxis spicata)
Description:
Summary: Terrestrial to semi-epiphytic herbs with two basal leaves and a slender spike of small (1/2 cm) green-to-orange flowers with the lip presented uppermost.

Common Name: Florida Adder's Mouth

Habitat: Terrestrial in swamps from central Florida into Virginia. Semi-epiphytic on floating logs and stumps in the extreme southern Florida swamps.

Flowering season: August through January (peaking in September)

Images:
 
Florida Adder's Mouth (Malaxis spicata) - flower closeup.
Florida Adder's Mouth (Malaxis spicata) - flower closeup.
Florida Adder's Mouth (Malaxis spicata) - flowers.
Florida Adder's Mouth (Malaxis spicata) - flowers.
Florida Adder's Mouth (Malaxis spicata) - plant in situ.
Florida Adder's Mouth (Malaxis spicata) - plant in situ.
Florida Adder's Mouth - Variegated Form (Malaxis spicata fma. variegata  P.M. Brown, P. Subrahmanyam, J. Subrahmanyam
Florida Adder's Mouth - Variegated Form (Malaxis spicata fma. variegata P.M. Brown, P. Subrahmanyam, J. Subrahmanyam

Description:
 

Florida Adder's Mouth is somewhat of a misnomer for this species, as it is found from Florida along the eastern seaboard into Virginia, where it grows in exceedingly damp bottomlands and swamps.

In extreme southern Florida, these plants are found semi-epiphytically on tree stumps and floating logs.

Plants consist of two, or rarely three, leaves arising from a small pseudobulb. The flower spike emerges to bear many small, orange-tinted flowers sequentially over several months. Curiously, the ovary behind this flower twists through 360 degrees to present the lip uppermost (a trait known as a non-resupinate flower). Most orchid flowers will have a 180 degree twist that presents the flower with the lip lowermost (a resupinate flower).

Recently, my son Josh and I discovered a variegated-leaved form of this plant growing in Goethe State Forest, which was named M. spicata fma. variegata. A colleague discovered a form with pure green flowers, which was recently named as M. spicata fma. morganii after his daughter.

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