Native to Ecuador
Edited 23 April 2007
Original publication: "Neottioideae from Ecuador," in: Bot. Notiser 130 (1977).
Originally collected in the Zamora-Chinchipe Province of Ecuador, 1300m, on steep clayey slopes, amidst scattered shrubs and dense herb cover.
Arosema et al. (1988) noted that Sobralia melanothrix is found in the Ecuadoran provinces of Pichincha, Cotopaxi, and Canar, growing on steep embankments in wet, montane cloud forest.
Photo at left © Nina Rach; an Ecuadoran plant that flowered in Houston, Texas, July-Sept 2001.
Notes from Løjtnant: Plants of Sobralia melanothrix grow as "terrestrial[s] up to 1 m tall... Upper half of stem leafy... underside of leaf blades dark pilose... Inflorescense terminal, single-flowered, flowers produced in succession from 3 pubescent, imbricating sheaths. flowers with reddish brown sepals and petals and purple lip margined with white and yellow in the throat. ...Column sinuous, rather slender, winged towards the apex, terminating in a pair of falcate processes at the clinandrium, up to 3 cm long."
"This new species is distinguished from
S. atropubescens Ames & c. Schweinf. and
S. lowii Rolfe by the distinct keels on the lip. In addition, it differs from S. atropubescens by its larger flowers and from S. lowii by its considerably broader leaves and red-brown, not purple flowers."
"Sobralia melanothrix resembles S. atropubescens from Costa Rica with its darkly pubescent sheaths and leaves. In fact, S. melanothrix and S. atropubescens seem to represent another example of the close phytogeographical relationship which exists betwen Costa Rica and Ecuador."
[Thanks to Dr. Leslie Garay for providing the reference cited above.]
Plants are commonly available from Ecuadoran vendors.
Arcadio Arosema G., Roberto Estrada G., Cecilia De Jurado, Max Konanz M. 1988. Orchids From the Coast of Ecuador / Orquídeas de la costa del Ecuador. Guayaquil: Asociacion Ecuatoriana de Orquideologia, 129p., 171 color photos [Sobralias pp. 93-99: Sob. atropubescens (p.93); Sob. fragrans; Sob. macrophylla; Sob. powellii; Sob. pulcherrima].
Calaway H. Dodson 1988. "A list of the orchid species reported for Ecuador" in: Orchids From the Coast of Ecuador, pp. 115-129.
Robert L. Dressler 1993. Field Guide to the Orchids of Costa Rica and Panama. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 374p. [S. atropubescens]
Leslie A. Garay (Dec) 1978. "Flora of Ecuador: Orchidaceae," in: Opera Botanica, Stockholm: NFR, 305p. [50 Elleanthus sp.: 57-110; 24 Sobralia sp.: 110-134; Sob. melanothrix on p.112-113; Fig. 39C]
P.M. Jørgensen & S. León-Yánez (Eds.) 1999. "Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Ecuador," in: Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden, 75: i--viii, 1--1182.
Bernt Løjtnant 1977. "Neottioideae from Ecuador," in: Bot. Notiser 130: 169-171 [includes line drawing of Sobralia melanothrix].
International Plant Names Index [IPNI],