Autotrophic or holomycotrophic terrestrial herbs Rhizome with many densely crowded, fasciculate, fibrous, or fleshy roots. Stem erect, covered with sheathing bracts, green, brown, or reddish brown. Leaves (when present) two, opposite. Inflorescence terminal, racemose, many-flowered, peduncle erect. Flowers resupinate, thin-textured or fleshy, glabrous, or labellum sometimes glandularpubescent, green, purple, or yellowish brown, labellum sometimes reddish brown. Sepals and petals subsimilar, subequal, campanulate, spreading or reflexed. Labellum porrect or pendent, apex entire, bifid or bilobed. Column erect to arcuate, sometimes swollen at base, foot absent; anther suberect or retrorse-inclined, caudicles absent, pollinia two, mealy, sometimes two-parted; stigma terminal, transverse or suborbicular to reniform, bilobed, viscidium solitary, semi-fluid; rostellum truncate at apex, ligulate, margins revolute. (JW).
Species of Neottia occupy a wide range of habitats (often moist situations), a wide elevational range, (collectively from sea level to 4200 m), and a wide distribution across the North Temperate Zone. In North America N. auriculata ( Wiegand) Szlach. frequents stream banks in Canada, where it occurs on disturbed sandy soil or on the adjoining flats that are subject to frequent flooding, growing just above the high-water line and commonly under Betula pumila L. ( Betulaceae). Neottia australis occurs in Sphagnum moss around the edges of bogs, often under Kalmia polifolia Wangenh. (Ericaceae), and in rich humus of wet deciduous forests. Neottia borealis (Morong) Szlach. is a plant of moist, rich humus in mossy, coniferous or mixed hardwood forests, often along streams fed by melting snow. Neottia convallarioides (Sw.) Rich. occurs in a variety of habitats in North America including forests and boggy meadows. Neottia cordata is found in coniferous forests growing among Sphagnum moss and Calluna vulgaris (L.) Hull (Ericaceae) on acid moorland; in North America it is also found under tamarack, cedar or spruce, often associated with Ledum groenlandicum Oeder (Ericaceae) and Linnaea borealis L. (Caprifoliaceae). Neottia smallii (Wiegand) Szlach. is typically found in darkly shaded, weed-free humus below Rhododendron species in ravines of the Appalachian Mountains, USA.
In Europe Neottia nidusavis (L.) Sw. is characteristic of Fagus sylvatica L. (Fagaceae) forests but is also recorded from Abies Miller (Pinaceae) and Fagus forests in Turkey and Abies and Quercus (Fagaceae) forests in Japan. Neottia ovata (L.) Bluff & Fingerh. is widespread in European broad-leaved woodlands and sometimes meadows bordering them.
Asian species include Neottia acuminata Schltr., growing in shade under Rhododendron hodgsonii Hook.f. (Ericaceae) and in Abies Miller forest in Bhutan and India (Sikkim). In Bhutan Neottia micrantha (Lindl.) grows on moss-covered boulders at 3000 m, N. mucronata (Panigrahi & J. J. Wood) Szlach. on open stream beds between 2250 and 2500 m, N. brevicaulis (King & Pantling) Szlach. in Tsuga forest at 3000 m, N. pinetorum (Lindl.) Szlach. in Abies, Pinus, Tsuga, and Rhododendron woods, on mossy boulders and beside streams between 3100 and 3700 m, and N. tenuis (Lindl.) Szlach. in subalpine Betula utilis D. Don ( Betulaceae) and Rhododendron forests as well as moist meadows between 3330 and 4130 m. Neottia micrantha Lindl. is recorded from Quercus and Pinus forest in China, N. inayatii (Duthie) Schltr. from boggy scrub in the Himalayan region, N. listeroides from Quercus forest in India and Abies and Pinus forest in Nepal. Neottia nipponica (Makino) Szlach. and N. pinetorum (Lindl.) Szlach. are recorded from coniferous forests in Japan. (JW).