Sobralia violacea

Linden ex Lindley 1846

Native to Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru

Edited 27 April 2010
© Nina Rach

Sobralia violacea photo by Patricia Harding

Original publication: Orchid. Linden. 26(133) (1846).

This is a widespread South American species. It has been found growing as an epiphyte in the Amazonian region, from 0-500 m elevation. Flowers are white or pale pink with darker pink lip with a golden throat (Ortiz 1992).

It has also been found at Machu Pichu in Peru (2000-3600 m), growing with Sobralia dichotoma, apparently adaptable to a wide climatic range. The Peruvian plants grow approximately 1.5 m tall, bearing large, terminal flowers that are "somewhat bell-shaped, violet or yellowish-white" (Vargas 1965).

Colombian plants have large white or violet-colored flowers with a golden throat and grow in cool conditions.

Photo of a very fine form of Sobralia violacea at left, grown by Patricia Harding, Oregon.

Sobralia violacea photo by Nina Rach

In western Venezuelan, Sobralia violacea is ubiquitous on the hillsides around Merida, in the Andes, and flowers gregariously. Photo at right by Nina Rach, blooming in situ October 2002. Most plants blooming at this time were white with yellow markings on the lip callus; occasional specimens are pale lavender or pale bluish lavender.

Listed by Dorr et al. for Trujillo State, Venezuela, "El Campamento," Pele Ojo, bajando hacia Qda. Honda; elevation 1900-2100 m; specimen: Stergios 17532 (Herbaria: CICY, PORT, US).

This species is often confused with Sobralia yauaperyensis, which Dr. Eric Christenson considers to be endemic to Brazil.
See Sobralia yauaperyensis for additional information.

See the webpage about White Sobralias.

Sobralia violacea watercolor by Irina Delof


Watercolor at left by Irina Delof, New York. Reproduced with permission.
Visit her website at:



Plants are available from in Colombia, and sometimes from Bergstrom Orchids in Hawaii.


Illustration below was published in Lindenia.

Sobralia violacea from the Lindenia

Jean Jules Linden & Lucien Linden (English reprint) Lindenia, An Iconography of Orchids. [5 sobralias: Sobralia x Veitchii - vol V, p.292; Sobralia lindenii - vol IV, p.328; Sobralia violacea - vol III. p.34; Sobralia xantholeuca - vol V, p.106; Sobralia xantholeuca var. alba - vol V. p.226] all with

[French edition, 1885-1906, 814 plates, Ghent]
[English edition, 1891-1897, 312 plates in 13 volumes, issued in 78 parts of four plates each, published by Naturalia]

Bolivian References:
R. Vasquez Ch. and P.L. Ibisch (eds.) (2004) Orquídeas de Bolivia: Diversidad y estado de conservación. Vol. II, Laeliinae - Polystachyinae - Sobraliinae, con actualización y complementación de Pleurothallidiinae. 2nd ed. Editorial Fundación Amigos de la Naturaleza (F.A.N.), Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. 649 p. [Spanish & English; S. violacea and S. yauaperyensis are treated as separate species]

Dissertation reference, from the Department of Applied BioSciences at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH):
M.K. Oechslin-Merkel, Ethnopharmakologische Untersuchungen von Arzneipflanzen, die in der Volksmedizin der Kallawaya-Indianer Boliviens Verwendung finden (Sobralia violacea L. und Gunnera manicata L.), Diss. ETH Zürich, 1992, Nr. 9826.

Species list, Orquidario Villa Tunari, Bolivia,

Colombian References:
Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Ecuador (CVPE) - Accepted Taxa, in the W3 TROPICOS database at MOBOT.

Pedro Ortiz Valdivieso, S.J. (1976) Orquideas de Colombia, Bogota, Colombia: Inter 2000, 232p. Line drawing p.202, (color photo btwn pp. 112-113).

Pedro Ortiz Valdivieso, S.J. et al. (1992) Native Colombian Orchids, Volume 4: Porroglossum - Zygosepalum, 616p. Sobralias pp. 534-539; no photo of S. violacea

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

Peruvian References:
Cesar Vargas (1965) "Orchids of Machupicchu (Peru)," in: American Orchid Society Bulletin 34(11):960-963 [English] 964-966 [Spanish]. [Sobralia dichotoma, violacea]

Photo of Sobralia violacea by Isaias Rolando, Club Peruana de Orquideas website

Sobralia violacea on cover of Dunsterville & Garay vol. 2

Venezuelan References:
Laurence J. Dorr, Basil Stergios, Alan R. Smith, and Nidia L. Cuello A. (Dec. 2000) Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Guaramacal National Park, Portuguesa and Trujillo States, Venezuela. Contributions from the United States National Herbarium, Vol. 40: 1-155. Smithsonian Institution, Dept. of Botany, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC. [Sobralia violacea, p. 54.]

G.C.K. Dunsterville (1980) "Sobralia Sessilis--An Orchid Hunt in an Orchid Herbarium," in: Bull. Amer. Orch. Soc. 49: 486-488. [S. decora, S. sessilis, S. valida; S. violacea; color photo of S. sessilis]

Galfrid C.K. Dunsterville (28 Aug 1987) Venezuelan Orchids. Caracas: Graficas Armitano, C.A. 127p.; English edition 1000 copies. [text and color photos of Sob. cattleya, Sob. infundibuligera, Sob. ruckeri, Sob. violacea]

G.C.K. Dunsterville and Leslie A. Garay (1959) Venezuelan Orchids Illustrated, Volume 1. London: Andre Deutsch Limited. [Text and line drawings of Sob. fragrans Lindley; Sob. sessilis Lindley; Sob. suaveolens Rchb. f.; Sob. violacea Linden]

G.C.K. Dunsterville and Leslie A. Garay (1961) Venezuelan Orchids Illustrated, Volume 2. London: Andre Deutsch Limited. [cover illustration of Sob. yauaperyensis Barb. Rodr., at left, now considered to be Sob. violacea Linden]

G.C.K. Dunsterville and Leslie A. Garay (1979) Orchids of Venezuela: An Illustrated Field Guide, p.943 [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]

Foldats suspected a close affinity between Sobralia violacea and Sobralia yauaperyensis. In Fig. 73 on pg. 200 he compares the relative size and shape of the sepals, petals, and lip, and on p. 201, at the end of his description of S. yauaperyensis, he writes:
"Muy afin a Sobralia violacea Linden, y probablemente se trata solamente de una variedad de la misma."

Gustavo A. Romero (1998) Venezuela, Orchid Paradise. 128p., 60 color photos, 62 B&W plates. [Sob. liliastrum, Sob. paradisica, Sob. stenophylla, Sob. violacea, (Sob. yauaperyensis)]

Gustavo A. Romero and Herman Carnevali (2000) Orchids of Venezuela: An Illustrated Field Guide, Second Edition. Caracas: Armitano Editores.

Reference for the Guianas:
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 possibly being in Suriname]

"La culture in vitro" (in French): photo of Sobralia violacea on pg. 13 of .pdf doc.

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