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Malaxis monophyllos

This species was first described as Ophrys monophyllos from Sweden by Linnaeus himself in 1753 but was subsequently reclassified by Swartz in 1800 as Malaxis monophyllos. Its name refers to the single large leaf which enfolds the base of the stem, its worth mentioning however that this species can occasionally be found with two or very rarely three leaves.

This is an orchid with a very wide distribution from North America across temperate and boreal Europe into Eurasia but although not uncommon in the Alpine regions of central and eastern Europe, it is unaccountably absent from the western Alps and Pyrenees. Its preferred habitat is a damp bank or flushed slope in the dappled shade of pine forest on a calcareous or neutral soil. It may also be found less commonly in drier and sunnier conditions growing happily in alpine grassland, sometimes amongst relatively rank vegetation (see pictures 3 and 10). It is a true Alpine and may be found up to a height of 2000 metres growing alongside the hardiest of Vanilla Orchids.

M. monophyllos is unlikely to be confused with other orchids due to its small size and distinctive inflorescence, though its dull green colouration makes it very easy to overlook. Its resemblance to Hammerbaya paludosa is marked but the confinement of this latter species to acid soils again precludes the possibility of confusion. Some authorities are not however persuaded that these two morphologically similar taxons are unrelated and justify separation in different genera.

The pictures are from the Dolomites and Styria region of Austria, dating from the middle of July.