Sobralia fragrans

Lindley 1853

Native to Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama,
Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Ecuador, Brazil (Amazonas, Amapa, Para)

Edited 5 July 2007
© Nina Rach

Sobralia fragrans by Greg Allikas

Originally published in the Gardeners Chronicle 598 (1853).
Synonym: Sobralia eublepharis Reichb. f. ex Kraenzlin,
Repert. Sp. Nov. 26: 255. t. 78. 1929.

This is a small-growing, erect species with FRAGRANT, 2.5"-3.0", rather closed flowers. The sepals and petals are white to light-yellow, sometimes tinged with pink. The lip is white, with a fringed margin and a yellow, ridged and frilly callus. Flowers are borne apically and usually seen in May - July. The plants grow in forests at higher elevations and are usually epiphytic but sometimes terrestrial. The cane-like stems bear one to three leaves with prominent veins. The type species was collected in Guatemala.

"Rather common on trees in wet forests, in partial shade, where it usually occurs in large bunches, occasionally terrestrial. Somewhat limited in distribution from Guatemala to Panama. ... Sobralia fragrans is distinctive in that its stem and peduncle are conspicuously flattened. It is thus easily distinguished from S. mucronata, which has a similar habit but a terete stem." (Ames & Correll 1952).


Sobralia fragrans by Helmut Deutsch

Photo at right provided by Helmut Deutsch, of a plant from Belize.

Found in Nicaragua at Selva Negra, between Picacho and Cerro Bravo peaks, at 1,200-1,300 m elevation.

Collected in Guatemala from Alta Verapaz; Chama; Izabal; Rio Dulce; Cerro San Gil; Montufar Flats (Ames & Correll 1952, p. 68), and from Peten and Dolores, along with several locations in Belize (prev. British Honduras) (Ames & Correll 1985, p.728).

Plants were observed flowering in Costa Rica in September and December from 120-700 m elevation in Alajuela, Guanacaste, and Puntarenas Provinces (BIMS database).

We found this plant growing near the top of La Escalera, at the northern end of Venezuela's Gran Sabana, in shady, open forest, in October 2001.

This species was found blooming in lowland tropical rainforest of Central French Guiana in Sept 1986 ( NY Specimen ID: 1014032), from "Fungal and Plant Diversity of Central French Guiana", part of Flora of Central French Guiana, a joint project by the New York Botanical Garden and ORSTOM to produce a flora of 50,000 hectares of rainforest near Saül, French Guiana Project of the New York Botanical Garden.

In Ecuador, this species has been found in both Amazon and Andean areas, between 0-1500 meters elevation, in the provinces of Manabi, Pichincha, and Zamora-Chinchipe (CVPE).

See the webpage about White Sobralias.

Online references:
See more of Greg Allikas' work at Orchid Photo Page logo

International Plant Names Index [IPNI],

Werner’s Guide to Nicaraguan Orchids: Selva Negra

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 Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana]

William A. Haber (2001) "Plants of Monteverde: Orchidaceae" in: Monteverde Natural History

Eva Ledezma, Giovanny Ramirez, Nayive Pino-Benitez (March 2006) "Forest Orchids of the Choco Region / Orquideas silvestres del Choco," in: Lyonia 10(1): 17-31. [Elleanthus capitatus, steyermarkii; Palmorchis trilobulata; Sobralia decora, fragrans, klotzscheana, liliastrum, macrophylla, madisonii, pulcherrima, valida; Fig. 4 shows Sobralia pollinia].

Checklist of the Plants of Central French Guiana [single record]

Flora of the Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region, Guyana Plant Species List in pdf format, in "Biological Diversity of the Guianas, Smithsonian"

Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Ecuador (CVPE) -- Accepted Taxa, in the W3 TROPICOS database from MOBOT.

Information about specimens can be found in the BIMS Database for Costa Rica
[Biodiversity Information Management System].

Printed References:

Oakes Ames and Donovan Stewart Correll (29 August 1952) Orchids of Guatemala, in: Fieldiana: Botany 26(1): 66-68; Chicago Natural History Museum Press.

Oakes Ames and Donovan Stewart Correll (1985) Orchids of Guatemala and Belize. New York: Dover Publications Inc., 779p. [p. 66-68; 728]

Arcadio Arosema G., Roberto Estrada G., Cecilia De Jurado, Max Konanz M. (1988) Orchids From the Coast of Ecuador. Guayaquil: Asociacion Ecuatoriana de Orquideologia, 129p., 171 color photos. [This species is pictured on p. 94]

Michael J. Balick, Michael H. Nee & Daniel E. Atha (2000) Checklist of the vascular plants of Belize, with common names and uses. Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 85: 1–246. The New York Botanic Garden Press. [Sobralia decora, fragrans, macrantha, mucronata]

Pierre Couret (1982) Jewels of the Venezuelan Orchids. Caracas: Libreria Alemana Oscar Todtmann S.R.L., 104p. [Sob. fragrans, color plate 58]

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 fragrans is listed as species no. 272 - "Rare."

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

Calaway H. Dodson and P.M. Dodson (1980) "Orchids of Ecuador," in: Icones Plantarum Tropicarum 4: 301-400.

G.C.K. Dunsterville and Leslie A. Garay (1979) Orchids of Venezuela: An Illustrated Field Guide, p.932 [excellent line drawing].

Rodrigo Escobar R, ed. (1992) Native Colombian Orchids, Volume 4: Porroglossum - Zygosepalum. Medellin: Compania Litografica Nacional S.A. [text p. 534; photo pg. 537]

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]

John Lindley (1853) "Sobralia fragrans," in: Gardeners Chronicle 598.

S.S. Renner, H. Balslev & L. B. Holm-Nielsen (1990) "Flowering plants of Amazonian Ecuador---A checklist," in: AAU Reports 24: 1-241.

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