Native to Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, French Guiana [possibly also Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama,
Colombia, Suriname, Brazil (Amazonas, Amapa, Para)]
Edited 17 April 2007
© Nina Rach
Originally published in Nov. Gen. ac Sp. Pl. 1:54 (1836), based on a plant collected in Pampayacu, Peru.
This species is easy to distinguish from almost all other sobralias because the petals, as well as the lip, have fimbriate margins. Otherwise, it would be lost in the morass of white sobralias. The flowers are white with a golden throat and the lip bears up to 20 longitudinal keels, which become fimbriate toward the apex, creating a fuzzy surface. Flowers are single and terminal. Natural spread about 10cm.
Another species with fimbriate petals was recently described (2001):
Sobralia hirta Bennett & Christenson, from Peru.
Photo at left published with permission of
Charles Nixon, Florida
(website). The plant is from Ecuador and is growing outside in a teak basket in medium lava rock.
Photo at right by Nina Rach, of a plant from Ecuador, OIC # 14,023. On the slip, J. Beckner noted that "S. hirta has the same characters... except for some purple in the throat." Note that the substance of the petals is poor, not nearly as good as the sepals. Buds develop quickly and the flowers last one day. The leaves are shiny, and firm, and the plant thrives in Houston's warm climate, blooming off and on throughout the year. For photo of pod and photomicrograph of seeds, click
Bennett, Christenson, et al. (1996) found Sobralia fimbriata growing at about 4600' in the Cordillera Azul in Peru. They mention that the plants grow in isolated patches, rather than in large colonies.
Bussmann (2001) identified large colonies of Sobralia fimbriata in clear-cut areas of lower montane forest, among dense grasses, 1800-2150m, in Reserva Biologica San Francisco. This is at the north end of Podocarpus National Park, in southern Ecuador, south of Loja, near Peru border.
Dunsterville and Garay (1965) mention this species being found at Guayaraca, Venezuela, around 3300 ft, and "also in a number of places on the summit of Auyantepui between Oso Woods at 6800 ft. and base of Second Wall at 5500 ft." These flowers are yellowish cream colored inside, and greenish cream on the backs of the sepals. The lip is white, with some pink flush, and the keels are pale yellow to dark yellow, nearly orange. The column is pale creamy green, and each flower bears 8 soft, cream-colored pollinia.
See the webpage on White Sobralias.
Plants are available from
Club Peruano de Orquideas (The Orchid Club of Peru), in Lima.
David E. Bennett Jr., Eric A. Christenson, B.A. Moises Cavero, and M.M. Leon (1996) "The Sobralias of Tingo Maria, Peru," in Orchids 65(8): 820-825. [fimbriata, rosea, yauaperyensis]
Rainer W. Bussmann (Sept 2001) "A Phytosociological Study of the montane vegetation of Reserva Biologica San Francisco, Zamora-Chinchipe, Southern Ecuador," 44pp, presented at an intl. conference: "Conservation of Biodiversity in the Andes and the Amazon Basin - linking Science, NGOs, and Local Communities." On the "Nature and Culture International" website; URL:
[Sobralia fimbriata, crocea, candida in lower montane forests, 1800-2150m, northern end of Podocarpus National Park]
Eric A. Christenson and J.K. Boggan (1996) "ORCHIDACEAE of the Guianas, in: Checklist of the Plants of the Guianas". Orchidaceae webpage:
URL [cited for Suriname and French Guiana]
G. Cremers, M. Hoff, D. Barthelemy, E.A. Christenson, Ly. & L. Leneveu, & Ch. & Cl. Pawilowski (1992) Inventaire taxonomique des plantes de la Guyane francaise II - les Orchidacees. Mus. Nat. Hist. Nat., Coll. Patr. Nat. (Ser. Patr. Genetique) 7: 1-144. Sobralia fimbriata is listed as species no. 271- "Observée dans la zone côtière, mais aussi dans la région de Saül."
Robert L. Dressler (1993) Field Guide to the Orchids of Costa Rica and Panama. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 304 pp.
G.C.K. Dunsterville and Leslie A. Garay (1965) Venezuelan Orchids Illustrated, Volume 3. London: Andre Deutsch Limited. [Text and line drawing.]
G.C.K. Dunsterville and Leslie A. Garay (1979), Orchids of Venezuela, An Illustrated Field Guide, p. 931 [excellent line drawing].
Ernesto Foldats (1969) "Orchidaceae," in: T. Lasser, Flora de Venezuela 15(1): 169-201. Caracas: Edicion Especial del Instituto Botanico.
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.]
Gustavo A. Romero and German Carnevali Fernandez-Concha (15 July 2000) Orchids of Venezuela, A Field Guide (2nd Ed.). Caracas: Armitano Editores, 3 gray volumes in a purple slipcase [same drawing as previously published by Dunsterville and Garay in the original 1979 Field Guide].
Species list, Orquidario Villa Tunari, Bolivia,