Sobralia dichotoma

Ruiz & Pavon 1798

Native to Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia

Edited 27 April 2007
© Nina Rach


Sobralia dichotoma from Colombia, photo by G. Anguloa

Sobralia dichotoma Ruiz & Pavon 1798

Original publication: Syst. Veg. Fl. Peruv. Chil. 1: 232.

High-altitude terrestrial species found from 6000 to 8000 ft in the Andes. Known around Machu Pichu in Peru (2000-3600 m). In Ecuador, this species has been found growing as an epiphyte from 500-2000 m elevation.
The plants have very long canes (1.5-3 m tall) with stalks similar to sugar cane and leathery leaves. The branched inflorescences bear dramatic red-brown flowers, edged with lighter red and pale violet, 6-7 cm natural spread.

Photo at left by Guillermo Angulo, Colombia, November 2003. The blooming plant was 4 meters tall.

A color photo of this species was featured on the November 1965 cover of the American Orchid Society Bulletin. The accompanying description reads as follows:
Sobralia dichotoma by Olin Karch, from Machu Picchu, Peru

"Sobralia dichotoma, the showy subject of this month's colored cover, is a member of a genus of terrestrial orchids which have the advantage of being evergreen and ornamental in character at all seasons of the year. The large and highly colorful flowers are produced from the apices of the reed-like stems, and as one flower dies, another one blooms, with often six or more being produced in succession. Unlike its warm-growing cousins from Costa Rica (S. mucronata and S. lindleyana -- pictured elsewhere in this issue), S. dichotoma is found in the high-altitude Peruvian Andes, where our cover subject was photographed by Dr. Herman R. Sweet while on a visit there last spring."

Photo at right from Machu Picchu, Peru, by Olin Karch. See Olin's webpage on Machu Picchu.

Colombian plants are available through Klehm Growers in Illinois.


Other information about this Sobralia species:
Sobralia dichotoma from Peru; photo Roger Valencia?

Peruvian Orchids: Sobralia dichotoma #1 - great photo! and another by Carlos Hajek

Sobralia dichotoma, Photo by Isaias Rolando, Peruvian Sobralias by Club Peruano de Orquideas

TROPICOS - W3CEC Web-Searchable Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Ecuador (CVPE)

[Sobralia atropubescens, biflora, candida, ciliata, corazoi, crocea, dichotoma, dorbignyana, ecuadoriana, fenzliana, fimbriata, fragrans, gentryi, gloriosa, hagsateri, kermesiana, klotzscheana, lancea, lepida, luerorum, macrophylla, madisonii, neudeckeri, oroana, pardalina, persimilis, piedadae, powellii, pulcherrima, rigidissima, rosea, setigera, sobralioides, stevensonii, suaveolens, tamboana, valida, violacea, yauaperyensis]

TROPICOS - Madidi Project, Bolivia Web-Searchable List of Taxa for Madid National Park, Department of La Paz, provinces of Franz Tamayo and Iturralde. [Elleanthus graminifolius; Sobralia dichotoma]

Andean Orchid Flower Essence Project


Sobralia dichotoma photo by Manuel Aubron

Printed References

Manuel Aubron (May/June 2006) "Orchids of Machu Pichu," in: Orchid Review 114(1269: 152-157. [Sobralia dichotoma photo on cover of issue]

H. Bechtel (1971) "Am Standort von Sobralia dichotoma Ruiz et Pav. in Machu Picchu, Peru," in: Orchidee 22(2): 42-43.

Colombian Orchid Society (1992) Native Colombian Orchids, Volume 4: Porroglossum - Zygosepalum. Medellin: Compania Litografica Nacional S.A., 618p.

[Sob. biflora Ruiz & Pavon ; Sob. bimaculata Garay ; Sob. cattleya Rchb. f.; Sob. dichotoma Ruiz & Pavon; Sob. fragrans Lindley ; Sob. klotzcheana Rchb. f. ; Sob. lancea Garay ; Sob. powellii Schlecter ; Sob. pucherrima Garay; Sob. rosea Poeppig & Endl.; Sob. suaveolens Rchb. f. ; Sob. valida Rolfe ; Sob. virginalis F. Peeters & Cogn. ; Sob. violacea Linden ex Lindley]

Calaway H. Dodson (1988) "A list of the orchid species reported for Ecuador" in: Orquídeas de la costa del Ecuador, pp. 115-129.

Ernesto Foldats (1969) "Orchidaceae," in: T. Lasser, Flora de Venezuela 15(1): 169-201. Caracas: Edicion Especial del Instituto Botanico.

[Sob. candida, ciliata, dichotoma, fimbriata, fragrans, infundibuligera, liliastrum, macrophylla, paradisiaca, rosea, sessilis, speciosa, stenophylla, suaveolens, violacea, yauaperyensis]

R.C. Foster (1958) "A catalogue of the ferns and flowering plants of Bolivia," in: Contributions from the Gray Herbarium of Harvard University, 184: 1-223.

Peter Møller Jørgensen & Susana León-Yánez (eds.) (1999) Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Ecuador in: Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 75: i--viii, 1--1182.

[Sobralia atropubescens, biflora, candida, ciliata, corazoi, crocea, dichotoma, dorbignyana, ecuadorana, fenzliana, fimbriata, fragrans, gentryi, gloriosa, hagsateri, kermesina, klotzscheana, lancea, lipida, luerorum, macrophylla, madisonii, neudeckeri, oroana, pardalina, persimilis, piedadae, powellii, pulcherrima, rigidissima, rosea, setigera, sobralioides, stevensonii, suaveolens, tamboana, valida, violacea, yauaperyensis, pp.757-759]

Joachim Prutsch, Anke Schardt, and Rainer Schill (March 2000) "Adaptations of an orchid seed to water uptake and -storage," in: Plant Systematics and Evolution, 220(1-2):69-75. [Sobralia dichotoma]

Abstract The anatomy and morphology of the seed of Sobralia dichotoma was studied by means of light-(LM), scanning-(SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The seedcoat of S. dichotoma consists of three different cell types. Two of them form a coiled wick ending in a closed hilum. Imbibition leads to uncoiling and stretching of this pipe, thus shaping a central capillary. The reversible movement of the helical tracheoidal cells is interpreted as a mechanism of water uptake (uncoiling) and -storage (coiling). Moreover, a multilayered envelope surrounds the embryo. Its inward layer shows all features of a thick cuticle while the following layers are collapsed cells with walls rich in pectin. This semipermeable envelope may function in water storage by adjoining a water sheet to the embryo and thereby protecting the mature embryo against desiccation. It is suggested that this unique seed type is a derived condition and has evolved in adaptation to the specialised habitat in tropical montane cloud forests. [Institut für Systematische Botanik und Pflanzengeographie, Anke Schardt and Rainer Schill, Universität Heidelberg, Germany]

Richard Evans Schultes and Maria Jose Nemry von Thenen de Jaramillo-Arango (1998) The Journals of Hipolito Ruiz: Spanish Botanist in Peru and Chile, 1777-1788. Portland: Timber Press, 357p. [Sob. amplexicaulis Ruiz & Pavon 1798; Sob. biflora Ruiz & Pavon 1798; Sob. dichotoma Ruiz & Pavon 1798]

Charles Schweinfurth (April 9, 1958) Orchidaceae, Orchids of Peru, in: Fieldiana, Botany 30(1): 68-77. [Sobralia amplexicaulis, biflora, candida, crocea, dichotoma, d'orbignyana, fimbriata, klotzscheana, leucoxantha, rosea, scopulorum, setigera, violacea, weberbaueriana]

Charles Schweinfurth (1967) Orchidaceae of the Guayana Highland. Memoirs New York Botanical Garden 14(3): 69-214. [Sobralia biflora, candida, dichotoma, fimbriata, fragrans, infundibuligera, liliastrum, macrophylla, pumila, speciosa, stenophylla, violacea, yauaperyensis, p. 86]

Tom Sheehan and Marion Sheehan (Jan. 1993) "Orchid Genera Illustrated: 150. Sobralia," in: Orchids 62(1): 42-43. ["Species in cultivation: Sob. cattleya, S. decora, S. dichotoma, S. macrantha, S. violacea, S. yauaperyensis"; color drawing of Sob. yauaperyensis]

Cesar Vargas (Nov. 1965) "Orchids of Machupicchu (Peru)," in: American Orchid Society Bull. 34(11):960-963 [English] 964-966 [Spanish].

M. Wolff (1990) "Schonheiten am Wegesrand - z.B Sobralia dichotoma," in: Orchidee 41(5): 157.



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