Bayard's Adder's Mouth Orchid

Malaxis bayardii Fern.

Malaxis bayardii

Monocotyledoneae (Monocots)
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)
State Protection
Listed as Endangered by New York State: in imminent danger of extirpation in New York. For animals, taking, importation, transportation, or possession is prohibited, except under license or permit. For plants, removal or damage without the consent of the landowner is prohibited.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled or Imperiled globally - At very high or high risk of extinction due to rarity or other factors; typically 20 or fewer populations or locations in the world, very few individuals, very restricted range, few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or steep declines. More information is needed to assign either G1 or G2.


Did you know?

This is one of the smallest of our native orchids and very difficult to find. The only known New York population has been in decline and may even no longer exist. There are only about a half dozen known populations of this plant worldwide.

State Ranking Justification

There are five historical populations plus a single population that is questionably still extant. This population was last observed with one plant in 1997 and has not been seen since despite multiple surveys and excellent boundary markings around the population. This population has had as many as 28 individuals. There remains questions as to whether or not this population may reappear. Active management is needed before we can hope to recover this population. In addition, surveys are needed on Long Island, the Hudson Highlands, and the Shawangunk Mountains as they hold potential for additional populations.

Short-term Trends

Plants of the only remaining population have not been seen in many years but it is unknown if the plants remain in a dormant state. Since this is such a difficult plant to locate, determining trend status with only one known population is nearly impossible.

Long-term Trends

There have only ever been five records of the plant in the state but the plants are very difficult to find so it is unknown whether these historical records are definitely extirpated. This globally rare plant has likely always been rare.

Conservation and Management


While this plant can do well under a full canopy, particularly if the canopy is of oak or pine species, it seems to have difficulties when shaded by aggressive herbs and vines. Based on the historical locations, development has had little impact on the previously known New York populations. The situation may be different for populations outside of New York. Within New York, the greatest threat most likely is habitat succession.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Management needs are difficult to determine without additional research. Until that research is undertaken, we have to depend on anecdotal guesses. One of these includes removing aggressive herbs and vines from known habitat. This may best be accomplished by hand-pulling the herbs/vines. Paul Catling thinks that the soil disturbance may actually help this plant. In areas where soil disturbance may only increase invasive species dominance, targeted herbicide application may be suitable.

Research Needs

Much more research needs to be done into the ecology of the species so more targeted surveys can be performed. The greatest challenge with this plant is simply finding it. If models were developed to predict potential habitat, survey efforts could be targeted at those locations. There is also a need for a better understanding of the ecological requirements needed by this plant, particularly if/how the landscape where populations occur should be managed.



An orchid of dry chestnut oak forests with shallow soil and exposed bedrock, and pitch pine scrub oak barrens on sandy soils (New York Natural Heritage Program 2004). Dry, open woods, shale barrens and sandy pine barrens (Flora of North America 2002). Dry sandy woods and adjacent clearings; very dry, open woods on hilltops and on steep, dry shale barrens (Catling 1991). Dry sandy woods and clearings (Fernald 1970).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Chestnut oak forest (guide)
    A hardwood forest that occurs on well-drained sites in glaciated portions of the Appalachians, and on the coastal plain. This forest is similar to the Allegheny oak forest; it is distinguished by fewer canopy dominants and a less diverse shrublayer and groundlayer flora. Dominant trees are typically chestnut oak and red oak.
  • Pitch pine-heath barrens* (guide)
    A shrub-savanna community that occurs on well-drained, sandy or rocky soils. The most abundant tree is pitch pine and the shrublayer is dominated by heath shrubs.
  • Pitch pine-oak-heath rocky summit* (guide)
    A community that occurs on warm, dry, rocky ridgetops and summits where the bedrock is non-calcareous (such as quartzite, sandstone, or schist), and the soils are more or less acidic. This community is broadly defined and includes examples that may lack pines and are dominated by scrub oak and/or heath shrubs apparently related to fire regime.
  • Pitch pine-scrub oak barrens (guide)
    A shrub-savanna community that occurs on well-drained, sandy soils that have developed on sand dunes, glacial till, and outwash plains.
  • Red cedar rocky summit* (guide)
    A community that occurs on warm, dry, rocky ridgetops and summits where the bedrock is calcareous (such as limestone or dolomite, but also marble, amphibolite, and calcsilicate rock), and the soils are more or less calcareous. The vegetation may be sparse or patchy, with numerous lichen covered rock outcrops.

* probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • Maianthemum canadense (Canada mayflower)
  • Pinus rigida (pitch pine)
  • Populus grandidentata (big-toothed aspen)
  • Prunus serotina
  • Quercus montana (chestnut oak)
  • Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust)
  • Rubus idaeus


New York State Distribution

This orchid was historically known from Albany, Nassau, Orange, Richmond, and Suffolk counties. Today, it is only known from a single location.

Global Distribution

This rare orchid is very locally distributed within the mountains of North Carolina northeast to the mountains of Pennsylvania. It also isscattered in the mountains and sandplains of New York, and the coastal plain of Virginia to Massachusetts.

Identification Comments

General Description

This is a very small orchid only about 1 or 2 dm tall. There is one oval green clasping leaf about one third to half the way up the stem. At the top of the stem is a cylindrical spike of up to 150 tiny, stalked, chartreuse-green flowers that wilt from the top down. The lip is divided into two lobes with another petal sticking out at the top between the lobes.

Identifying Characteristics

The basal lobes of this orchid have a prominent lip, 0.76-1.1 mm long, usually 1.5-2 or more times as long as the apical lateral lobes, and 0.6 or more times as long as the length from the base to the tip of the mid lobe. The inflorescence has pedicels that are 3.4-5 (5.8) mm long (even in plants with inflorescences over 80 mm long). These inflorescences are loosely flowered above, with the lower flowers wilting slowly. This is a plant of dry habitats.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

For proper identification, this orchid must be observed with flowers or fruit. Due to the extreme rarity of this plant, only take pictures and possibly pinch off a single flower to allow for verification of the species..

Similar Species

The basal lobes of the lip on Malaxis unifolia are not prominent, 0.4-1.1 mm long, mostly less than 1.5 times as long as the apical lateral lobes and less than 0.6 times as long as the length from the base to the tip of the mid-lobe. The inflorescence has pedicels that are (3.8) 5-10 (13) mm long (and more than 15 mm long in plants with inflorescences over 45 mm long). These inflorescenses are densely-flowered above with the lower flowers soon wilting. This is a plant of swamps, bogs and wet habitats.

Best Time to See

This orchid flowers mid-July to August with fruits persisting into September. This small plant is difficult to find at any time during the year, but surveys from July to mid-August have a great chance of locating this plant while in flower.

  • Flowering
  • Fruiting

The time of year you would expect to find Bayard's Adder's Mouth Orchid flowering and fruiting in New York.

Bayard's Adder's Mouth Orchid Images


Bayard's Adder's Mouth Orchid
Malaxis bayardii Fern.

  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Anthophyta
      • Class Monocotyledoneae (Monocots)
        • Order Orchidales
          • Family Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Additional Common Names

  • Adder's-mouth
  • Adder's-mouth Orchid
  • Appalachian Adder's-mouth Orchid
  • Bayard's Adder's Mouth
  • Bayard's Malaxis


  • Malaxis unifolia Michx. [<i>Malaxis bayardii</i> is lumped under <i>Malaxis unifolia</i> by Gleason and Cronquist (1991) and a few others.]

Comments on the Classification

This was once considered part of Malaxis unifolia, but a systematic study by Paul Catling (1991) supported Fernald's (1950) recognition of this terrestrial orchid. Malaxis unifolia is typically found at wetter locations while Malaxis bayardii is found at drier sites.

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

Catling, P. M. 1991. Systematics of Malaxis bayardii and Malaxis unifolia. Lindleyana 6(1):3-23.

Other References

Fernald, M.L. 1950 Gray's Manual of Botany, 8th ed. American Book Company, New York. 1632 pp.

Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. D. Van Nostrand, New York. 1632 pp.

Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2002. Flora of North America, North of Mexico. Volume 26. Magnoliophyta: Liliidae: Liliales and Orchidales. Oxford University Press, New York. 723 pp.

Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.

Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Mitchell, Richard S. and Gordon C. Tucker. 1997. Revised Checklist of New York State Plants. Contributions to a Flora of New York State. Checklist IV. Bulletin No. 490. New York State Museum. Albany, NY. 400 pp.

New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Enviromental Conservation. March 1998. Element Occurrence Record Database. Latham, NY.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Reschke, Carol. 1990. Ecological communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Latham, NY. 96 pp. plus xi.

Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research University of South Florida]. New York Flora Association, Albany, New York


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: August 28, 2019

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Malaxis bayardii. Available from: Accessed May 26, 2024.