Edited 26 April 2010
© Nina Rach
The Genus Sobralia (Sob.):
...was established by the Spanish botanists Hipolito Ruiz & Jose Antonio Pavon in 1794, through publication of Sobralia dichotoma in Flora Peruvianae, et Chilensis Prodromus 120 (abbrev. Fl. Peruv. Prodr.). It was based on plant material collected on a trip spanning 1777 - 1781 during which Lopez, Pavon & Dombey explored Chile & Peru. The genus is named in honour of the Spanish physician and botanist, Dr. Francisco Sobral.
However, it was recently discovered that the first sobralia recorded was Sobralia mutisii, in Colombia. José Celestino Mutis, was director of the Colombian Royal Botanical Expedition (1783-1816). According to Father Pedro Ortiz, Mutis had ordered this sobralia drawn, before the drawings were made from Ruiz and Pavon's botanical expedition to Peru and Chile.
There are approximately 100 Sobralia species found throughout Central and South America, perhaps 40-50 in Colombia alone. The plants are usually medium to tall terrestrials, rarely ephiphytes, with reedlike stems and plicate leaves. The flowers range in color from white through yellow, orange, pink, purple, and red, with some coerulea varieties known. The inflorescenses occur terminally or laterally from the upper leaf axils, and there are eight pollinia. The taxonomy of this genus is not well-settled, and the correct nomenclature for the white sobralias is particularly challenging.
According to Dr. Robert Dressler, one of a very small number of taxonomists who have studied this genus, Sobralia is allied to the following genera: Elleanthus Presl., Palmorchis Barb. Rodr., Corymborchis Thou., and Sertifera Rchb.f.
In particular, the genus Elleanthus was described by Presl in 1827 as a genus of Tropical American orchids akin to Sobralia [Type species: E. lancifolius].
Another taxonomist believes the family relationships are as follows:
Sobralia flowers are notoriously short-lived and ephemeral, usually opening for only a few hours before withering. This may explain why there have been only nine AOS awards from 1932-1999. Four of the nine were awarded to different clones of Sobralia macrantha. However, there are a few species with longer-lasting flowers of good substance.
There are 29 Sobralia hybrid names registered with the Royal Horticultural Society, representing 27 unique crosses, as of April 2010. The earliest Sobralia hybrid, Sobralia Wiganiae, was registered in 1856.
Within the following lists, click on the individual species or hybrid name for further descriptions, photos, and AOS awards. Note that only those listings in blue are currently loaded.
This webpage was born in August 2000.
© Nina Rach
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