AFRICAN

ORCHIDS

Malaxis Solander ex O. Swartz, Prodr. 8, 119. 1788.
Synonyms:
Achroanthes Raf., J. Phys. Chim. Hist. Nat. Arts 89: 261 (1819).
Acroanthes Raf., J. Phys. Chim. Hist. Nat. Arts 89: 261 (1819), orth. var.
Microstylis (Nutt.) Eaton, Man. Bot., ed. 3: 115 (1822), nom. cons.
Pterochilus Hook. & Arn., Bot. Beechey Voy.: t. 17 (1832).
Cheiropterocephalus Barb.Rodr., Gen. Spec. Orchid. 1: 28 (1877).
Pseudoliparis Finet, Bull. Soc. Bot. France 54: 536 (1907).
Anaphora Gagnep., Bull. Mus. Natl. Hist. Nat., II, 4: 592 (1932).
Fingardia Szlach., Fragm. Florist. Geobot., Suppl. 3: 134 (1995).
Glossochilopsis Szlach., Fragm. Florist. Geobot., Suppl. 3: 122 (1995).
Seidenfia Szlach., Fragm. Florist. Geobot., Suppl. 3: 122 (1995).
Tamayorkis Szlach., Fragm. Florist. Geobot., Suppl. 3: 121 (1995).
Seidenforchis Marg., Acta Soc. Bot. Poloniae 75: 302 (2006).
Description:
Herbs terrestrial, rarely semi-epiphytic or epiphytic, usually with multinodal fleshy stem or pseudobulb, outside often with membranous sheaths. Leaves often 2--8, rarely 1, subbasal or cauline; petiole often +/- clasping; leaf blade herbaceous and membranous, sometimes slightly fleshy, multiveined, base contracted into a conspicuous stalk, without nodes. Flower scape terminal, usually erect, wingless or rarely with narrow wings; raceme several or many flowered; floral bracts persistent. Flowers often small. Sepals separate, similar or lateral sepals short and wide, usually spreading. Petals often filiform or linear, conspicuously narrower than sepals, rarely similar to sepals; labellum often above (ovary resupinate 360 degrees), rarely below (ovary resupinate 180 degrees), unlobed or 2- or 3-lobed, sometimes apex dentigerous or fimbriate-toothed, base often with a pair of auricles elongated toward column on both sides, rarely without auricle or auricle transversely spreading toward both sides; column erect, often very short, apex often 2-toothed; anthers inserted at apex of column abaxially, erect or tilted downward, usually persistent after flowers withered; pollinia 4, forming 2 pairs, waxy, without conspicuous caudicle and viscidium, only cohesive at base. Capsule elliptic to globose, relatively small.
Distribution:

Cosmopolitan
Notes:
This is a large genus of small, usually terrestrial orchids with about 300 species in tropical Asia. The Greek word malaxis (softening) has been used to coin this generic name, in an allusion to the sort texture of the leaves and stems. All the species have rather small flowers in which the sepals and petals are similar. The lip is broad and flat and often has toothed margins. It is held on the upper side of the flower. However, since the flowers are often carried in an umbel-like group at the apex of the flowering stem, whether the flowers are resupinate or not may be hard to determine. The column is short and carries 4 pollinia in 2 pairs at its apex.
This genus is related to Liparis, and the stems and foliage of the two genera are somewhat similar. Malaxis species are easily recognised by the different flowers, especially the short column and the rounded lip with auricles at its base.
Cultivation:
The plants are unknown in cultivation but should not be difficult to maintain in shallow pots or pans or weel drained compost. They will grow best in intermediate conditions where the temperature drops to c. 15 C. at night but is considerably warmer during the day. They need to be kept moist in the period of active growth. After flowering the plants should be allowed to dry off while the leaves become thin, turn brown and eventually shrivel or fall. After a further rest, watering and feeding should begin again when new shoots begin to develop on the rhizome.
Species:

Malaxis cardiophylla (Rchb.f.) Kuntze Comoros (Njazidja).
Malaxis chevalieri Summerh. W. Trop. Africa to Central African Rep.
Malaxis katangensis Summerh. Trop. Africa.
Malaxis katangensis var. katangensis. Trop. Africa.
Malaxis katangensis var. pygmaea (Summerh.) P.J.Cribb W. Zambia.
Malaxis maclaudii (Finet) Summerh. W. Trop. Africa to Sudan and Zambia.
Malaxis madagascariensis (Klinge) Summerh. Madagascar.
Malaxis melanotoessa Summerh Liberia.
Malaxis physuroides (Schltr.) Summerh. N. & NE. Madagascar.
Malaxis prorepens (Kraenzl.) Summerh. Trop. Africa.
Malaxis schliebenii (Mansf.) Summerh. Tanzania to Zambia
Malaxis seychellarum (Kraenzl.) Summerh. Seychelles.
Malaxis welwitschii (Rchb.f.) ined Bioko to W. Ethiopia and S. Trop. Africa, C. Madagascar.

World Checklist of Monocotyledons. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; http://www.kew.org/wcsp/monocots/ accessed 1/16/2010
Bibliography and References:
McCartney C. 2000 African affinities: part 3. The surprising relationships of some of Florida's wild orchids. Orchids 69. (4): 340-343, 354 (2000)
Sheehan T, Sheehan M. 1995 Orchid genera illustrated: 162. Malaxis. Amer. Orchid Soc. Bull. 64. (1): 22-23 (1995)
Szlachetko DL, Margonska HB. 2006 Redefinition of the genera Malaxis Sol. ex Sw. and Microstylis (Nutt.) Eaton (Orchidaceae, Epidendroideae). Acta Soc. Bot. Pol. 75. (3): 229-231.