Sobralia margaritae by M. Mee

Sobralia margaritae

G.F. J. Pabst 1977

Native to Brazil (Amazonas, Mato Grosso, possibly Pará)

Edited 12 October 2008

Originally published in Bradea, 2(24): 166 (1977)

Type specimen: Amazonas, Brazil collected by Margaret Mee s.n. Nov 1976.
Type collection flowered in cultivation.

This large-growing, epiphytic species is found in the hot, humid lowlands of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, and the RPPN Cristalino Reserve in northern Mato Grosso state. Petals cream, dorsal sepal pale olive green, lip cream, purple (red). Watercolor (gouche) illustration at upper left by Margaret Ursula Mee (1909-88).

Trained in art in England, Mee moved to Brazil in 1952 with her husband Greville. She taught art in Sao Paulo, and made 15 expeditions into the Amazon, beginning in 1956, at age 46. Her intricately painted plant portraits were soon exhibited at the Botanical Institute of Sao Paolo, in Rio de Janeiro (1958), and in London (1960). This helped establish her reputation as an outstanding botanical artist. She was eventually awarded the Brazilian decoration of the Order of the Southern Cross.

Text below refers to the discovery of this species. On the next page, at right, is a sketch of Sobralia margaritae, discovered by Mee during her eighth journey in 1972.

Navigating the Rio Maués, Mee's pilot Severino "found his way into a tributary of the river, Rio Amena, and thence into a lovely igarapé [small stream] where low palms growing in the water covered it with a blue haze and from their midst rose trees like columns in a Gothic cathedral. I scanned these trees for epiphytes, and on one of the tallest saw, with excitement, a huge wreath of orchids encircling the trunk. It was a Sobralia, without a doubt, and a giant of that genus. Bento, in his enthusiasm, would have thrown down the whole clump had I not restrained him, stipulating a maximum of three plants. They were without flowers, but later it flowered and was found to be a new species and was named Sobralia margaritae [by Guido Pabst]"

From: Flores do Amazonas. Flowers of the Amazon (São Cristovão, Rio de Janeiro: 1980), no. 17).


Sobralia margaritae sketch by Margaret Mee

Description from Henry Sotheran Ltd. ( Fine Books and Prints):
"This sketch is probably an early depiction of the Sobralia margaritae -- which was named by Pabst in or before 1977, the date of the finished painting which bears the full name -- and is particularly interesting for Mee's technical annotations describing the colours of the flower, which provide a fascinating insight into her working methods."

Inscribed with location "Rio Urupadi Maués Am[azonas].", and further inscribed "petals cream / shadows green / upper sepal green (pale olive) / labelli -- / cream / purple (red) / turn over & lines / 'seatless' yellow.", "Igarapé of Rio Amazonas?", and "m.n. + 1/3", [?circa 1972]; gouache over pencil on paper removed from sketchbook; 305 x 216mm; slight waterstaining and short marginal tears; provenance: Margaret Mee.

Reproduced from: Stiff (1997), p. 140 (detail).

Note similarity of flower to Sobralia chlorantha Hooker.

Mee died in an automobile accident in Leicester, England on 30 November 1988, on the eve of her Amazon Exhibition at Kew.


Margaret Ursula Mee (1968) Flowers of the Brazilian Forest, Collected and Painted by Margaret Mee. London: The Tryon Gallery. Foreword by Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx.

Margaret Ursula Mee (1980) Flores do Amazonas/Flowers of the Amazon, Rio de Janeiro: São Cristovão, plate 17. [paintings, diary entries, and botanical text by Guido Pabst]

Margaret Ursula Mee (1988) Margaret Mee, In Search of Flowers of the Amazon Forests: Diaries of an English Artist Reveal the Beauty of the Vanishing Rainforest, T. Morison, ed. Nonesuch Expeditions Ltd., 302 pp. [Includes portions of her diaries, arranged chronologically by expedition, paintings, sketches, and photographs taken on her expeditions] ISBN-13: 9781869901080; ISBN: 1869901088.

G.F.J. Pabst & F. Dungs (1977) Orchidaceae Brasilienses. Brücke-Verlag Vol. II, pg. 208. [Mee also contributed illustrations to Vol. I, published in 1975, but those are not sobralias]

Book cover: Margaret Mee. Return to the Amazon

Ruth L.A. Stiff (1997) Margaret Mee. Return to the Amazon. London: The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, p. 140. [This book was prepared as a program guide for an exhibition of 75 of her paintings that toured the US 1n 1997-99, curated by Ruth Stiff] ISBN-13: 9780112501138; ISBN: 0112501133.

Teócrito Abritta (8-14 January 2007) "SOS Cristalino Licença para desmatar," in: Comunicandido, 10(2): 3; Universidade Candido Mendes. Link to article in original Portuguese and Link to a English translation, mostly through Babelfish.
For more information on the Cristalino Reserve in the Amazon, go to

The Genus Sobralia by Delfina de Araujo

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