Sobralia fenzliana photo by Copan Nature Center

Sobralia fenzliana

Rchb.f. 1852

Native to Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador

Edited 19 September 2009
© Nina Rach

Originally published by Heinrich Gustav Reichenbach (1824-1889) in: Bot. Zeit. 10: 714 (1852). Type species: Nicaragua.

This species has rose-purple flowers with a darker lip; the lip is wavy but not ruffled and it does not have crisped keels.

Photo at left from Enchanted Wings Nature Center, Copan Ruinas, Honduras, run by Robert and Irma Gallardos.

This species is similar to Sobralia decora and Sobralia neglecta. How to distinguish? Generally, Sobralia decora has more upright, strong stems, and the leaves are retained all the way to the base of the plant. It also throws keikis.
See also the AOS award to Sobralia wilsoniana 'Vera Cruz' CBR, identified by Stig Dalstrom in 2008. It was originally awarded as Sobralia bouchei, but it looks like Sobralia fenzliana.

Sobralia fenzliana photo by Steve Gonzalez

Plants I grow in Houston grow robustly when treated as epiphytes. Roots will grow out of the pot and all through the benches - be wary! Stems grow to 1-1.5 m tall, semi-erect (need staking for display), and do not have keikis. The stems are slightly flattened, but not to the same degree as Sobralia sessilis. Generally, leaves only retained on the upper half of the stems. Flowers for months at a time, every week or two; but flowers last only one day. They are always terminal, and usually single, occasionally double.

Photo at right from Steve Gonzalez.

Williams and Allen wrote this description for Panamanian plants:

"Slender terrestrial or epiphytic herbs. Leaves 13-17 cm. long and 4-6 cm. broad, elliptic-oblong to lanceolate-ovate, acuminate. Sepals about 4 cm. long, elliptic or oblong-elliptic, acute. Petals a little shorter than the sepals, narrowly obovate, acute. Lip (4-6 cm. long?) obovate-orbicular, crenate-dentate anteriorally, ecarinate." Collected by Warscewicz in Chiriqui Province.
"The description is taken from the original and an analysis of the type. Seems to differ from Sobralia bouchei only in lacking carinae on the lip."
[carinae are linear, external ridges; part of the callus]

Found at Selva Negra in Nicaragua, between between the departments of Matagalpa and Jinotega, at 1300m.

AOS Award:

Sobralia fenzliana 'Aibonito' CBR/AOS January 29, 2000.
Description: Six flowers on six inflorescenses, borne on a plant to 132.5 cm tall; leaves alternate, ovate; flowers white, overlaid light lavender, flushed and veined rose; lip deep rose, one white mark apically, crimson centrally; substance tissue-like; texture matte. Nat. spr. 6.9cm, 4.9cm vert; ds 1.5cm w, 5.2cm l; pet 2.1cm w, 4.3cm l; ls 1.5cm w, 6.0cm l; lip 2.4cm w, 4.1cm l.
Awarded at the St. Paul Winter Carnival Orchid Show in St. Paul, Minnesota. Exhibitor: Steve Gonzalez, Woodbury, Minnesota. (AQ Vol. 32 p. 114)

Printed References:

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

Robert L. Dressler (1980) "Checklist of the Orchids of Panama," in: Orchids of Panama. 590 pages (pp. I-XXVI). Missouri Botanical Garden. [Sobralia allenii, amabilis, atropubescens (was decora var. aerata), bletiae, bouchei, callosa, fenzliana (was panamensis), fragrans, labiata, lindleyana, macrophylla (was rolfeana), powellii (was leucoxantha), suaveolens, undatocarinata, valida, warszewiczii]

Robert L. Dressler (1993) Field Guide to the Orchids of Costa Rica and Panama. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 374p. [p.322].

Robert L. Dressler (April-May-June 1998) "A New White Sobralia from Costa Rica," in: Orchid Digest 62(2): 89-91. [Sob. kerryae; also S. leucoxantha, S. powelii, S. fenzliana = S. decora]

Leslie A. Garay (Jan. 1978) "Studies in American Orchids X," in: Botanical Museum Leaflets, Harvard Univ. 26(1):1-38. [Sobralia fenzliana, luteola, powellii, warscewiczii]

Leslie A. Garay (Dec. 1978) Flora of Ecuador: Orchidaceae, in: Opera Botanica, Stockholm: NFR, 305p. [50 Elleanthus sp.: 57-110; 24 Sobralia sp. on pp. 110-134: Sob. atropubescens, biflora, candida, ciliata, corazoi, crocea, d'orbignyana, fenzliana, fimbriata, gloriosa, kermesina, klotzscheana, lancea, lepida, macrophylla, pardalina, persimilis, powellii, pulcherrina, rigidissima, rosea, setigera, sobralioides, valida]

Fritz Hamer (1990) Orchids of Central America: An Illustrated Field Guide (M-Z), in: Selbyana 11(Suppl.):423-860 [Line drawings: p.594: Palmorchis silvicola; pp.764-781: Sobralia bradeorum, chatoensis, decora, fenzliana, fragrans, helleri, lepida, lindleyana, luteola, macra, macrantha, macrantha var. kienastiana, mucronata, powellii, suaveolens, triandra, warscewiczii, xantholeuca]

S. Helbsing, Markus Riederer, and G. Zotz (2001) "Cuticles of vascular epiphytes: efficient barriers for water loss after stomatal closure?" in: Annals of Botany 86: 765-769. [Sobralia fenzliana; S. suaveolens]

Heinrich Gustav Reichenbach (1852) Bot. Zeit. 10: 714.

Markus Riederer and Lukas Schreiber (1 Oct 2001) "Protecting against water loss: analysis of the barrier properties of plant cuticles," in: Oxford Univ. Press, Jour. of Experimental Botany 52(363): 2023-2032. [using isolated cuticle membranes of Sobralia fenzliana; Sobralia suaveolens] Available online at: OXFORD Journals online

Seemann (1854) "Reichenbach fil's list of species for the Isthmus of Panama' in: Bot. Voy. Herald, pp. 214-215. [Sobralia fenzliana, "on trees"]

Louis Otho Williams and Paul H. Allen (March 8, 1946) Orchidaceae, Flora of Panama Part III. Fascicle 2., pp. 107-246, in: Ann. Missouri Botancal Garden 33: 30. Orchidaceae, Flora of Panama. Missouri Botanical Garden. [p.31] [Sobralia allenii , amabilis, bletiae, bouchei, callosa, fenzliana, fragrans, labiata, leucoxantha, lindleyana, panamensis , decora var. aerata , rolfeana, suaveolens , valida, warszewiczii, macrophylla]

Louis Otho Williams and Paul H. Allen (1980) Orchids of Panama Facsilile reprint of 1946 volume, Missouri Botanical Garden, 590p. [p.137]

Online References:

Harvard University Herbarium (as of 10 April 2003), Index of Botanical Specimens. URL: [99 Sobralias listed: Sobralia allenii; amesiana; amparoae; atropubescens; biflora; bimaculata; bletiae; bouchei; bradeorum; buchtienii; callosa; corazoi; crocea; decora; decora Bateman var. aerata P. H. Allen & L. O. Williams; edwardsii; epiphytica; fenzliana; fimbriata; galeottiana; hoppii; infudibuligera (infundibuligera); klotzscheana; labiata; lancea; lepida; leucoxantha; lindleyana; luteola; macra; macrantha; macrophylla; mandonii; mucronata; neglecta; panamensis; panamensis Schlechter var. albiflos Schlechter; persimilis; pfavii; pleiantha; powellii; pulcherrima; rigidissima; rolfeana; rosea; roseo-alba; sancti-josephi; sanderae; semperflorens; speciosa; suaveolens; sulphurea; undatocarinata; valida; violacea; warszewiczi; wilsoniana]

International Plant Names Index [IPNI],

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Webpage with location map - specimen collected by T.B. Croat, on 14 Dec 1967, Barro Colorado Island, Canal Zone Wheeler Trail 2000, Panamá.

TROPICOS - W3CEC Web-Searchable Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Ecuador. URL: ___________ [Elleanthus; 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]

Pat Werner (1997), Werner’s Guide to Nicaraguan Orchids: Selva Negra, [Lists three sobralia species: fenzliana, fragrans, and macrantha.]

Enchanted Wings Nature Center, Copan Ruinas, Honduras,; Photo. Run by Robert and Irma Gallardo.

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