Sobralia macrophylla

Reichenbach f. 1852

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

Edited 12 February 2008
© Nina Rach

Sobralia macrophylla photo by Greg Allikas

Sobralia macrophylla Rchb.f.

The name "macrophylla" aptly describes the large leaves of this species. The plants grow terrestrially or epiphytically, in forests at higher elevations, to about 1 meter in height. The lower part of the cane-like stems are covered in dark grey sheaths and the upper part of the stems have clear green leaves. Flowers are borne apically, in succession; they are fleshy and fragrant. Flower color is described variously as white to cream to pale yellow. The lip has crisped margins and a deep golden yellow disc/throat.

The photos at left and below appear courtesy of Greg Allikas, The Orchid Photo Page. The plant is from Panama, grows in a 6" (15cm) clay pot with a total plant height about 2 ft (70cm) and was blooming in September. Flower quality is better in cooler weather. The flowers have a very faint fragrance of cocoa. Flower measurements: Dorsal Sepal 6.7 cm L, 1.5 cm W; Petals 6.0 cm L, 1.8 cm W; Lateral Sepals 6.0 cm L, 1.6 cm W; Lip 6.3 cm L, 3.5 cm W.

Sobralia macrophylla lip closeup by Greg Allikas

Sobralia macrophylla flower profile by Greg Allikas






In the Osa area of Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica, this species was observed blooming in August at 250m elelvation. It is also known to bloom occasionally in May.

In Ecuador, this species has been found growing in tropical wet forests in the provinces of Esmeraldas, Manabi, Los Rios, Pichincha, and Cotopaxi.

Sobralia macrophylla from Flore des Serres by Van Houtte, 1853

This species was originally described by William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865) in Botanical Magazine t. 4682 as Sobralia chlorantha Hook. f.
The illustration of "Sobralia chlorantha" at left was published 1852-53 in: Flore des Serres et des Jardins de l’Europe by Louis Benoit van Houtte, a well-known Belgian horticulturalist (1810-1876). The original chromolithograph was published with text. This tome by Van Houtte is mentioned in: Great Flower Books, 1700-1900: a bibliographical record of two centuries of finely-illustrated flower books by Sacheverell Sitwell. London: Collins, 1956 (p.84). Also in Nissen 2254; Stafleu & Cowan TL2/15.921.

However, the name Stanhopea macrophylla, published by Rchb.f. in Bot. Zeit. 10:713 in 1852 takes precedence. The type species is from Panama.

Sobralia macrophylla is featured on a 4 zloty stamp issued by Poland on 6 September 1965 (Scott #1352), part of a sheetlet of nine stamps, Scott #1346-1354. See Sobralias on Stamps.

For comparison with other white sobralia species, see the webpage on White Sobralias.

Plants are available from Maduro's Tropical Flowers through Woodstream Orchids in Maryland, [email:] and from Ecuagenera.

Online References:

International Plant Names Index [IPNI],

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, French Guiana]

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

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. [Colombia; Elleanthus capitatus, steyermarkii; Palmorchis trilobulata; Sobralia decora, fragrans, klotzscheana, liliastrum, macrophylla, madisonii, pulcherrima, valida; Fig. 4 shows Sobralia pollinia].

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

Two stock images of Sobralia macrophylla from Campina Biological Reserve in the Brazilian Amazon: vertical and horizontal.

Printed References:

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 and described on p. 94]

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 macrophylla is listed as species no. 274 - "Récoltée dans le bassin de l'Oyapock."

Robert L. Dressler (1998) "A new white Sobralia from Costa Rica," in: Orchid Digest 62: 89-91, color photos. [the new Sobralia kerryae Dressler is compared with Sobralia macrophylla Rchb.f.]

Robert L. Dressler (1993) Field Guide to the Orchids of Costa Rica and Panama. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Robert L. Dressler and Diego Bogarin C. (September 2007) "Two attractive new species of Sobralia from Panama," in: Orchids, magazine of the Amer. Orch. Soc., 76(9): 696-701.
[New: Sob. fuzukiae, mireyae. Mentioned with regard to Sob. fuzukiae: Sob. candida, lancea, pardalina, quinata, leucoxantha, nutans. Mentioned with regard to Sob. mireyae: Sob. macrophylla, leucoxantha, citrea, kerryae, kruskayae, theobromina, bouchei, wilsoniana]

G.C.K. Dunsterville and Leslie A. Garay (1979) Orchids of Venezuela: An Illustrated Field Guide, p.935 [excellent line drawing].

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]

Marga C.M. Werkhoven (1986) Orchids of Suriname, Paramaribo: Vaco, 256pp.

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