Sobralia atropubescens

f. aurea

Week 24: Aug 31, 2020

Sobralia atropubescens f. aurea

This week I would like to present new and exiting species - Sobralia atropubescens f. aurea.

Very similar to Sobralia atropubescens but plant is smaller and flowers are yellow, not lavender, pink or brown color.

In WCSP (Kew) Sobralia atropubescens f. aurea (Christenson, Bol. CAOB 66-67: 57 (2007), photograph cited for holotype) listed as synonym.

Couldn’t find any photos of Sobralia atropubescens f. aurea on Google or Instagram.

This form of Sobralia listed in Lankesteriana (Dec 2014, Vol.14, No.3) - An updated checklist of the Orchidaceae of Panama.

Probably can be found in Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Ecuador.

Previous Awards:

There no AOS awards on Sobralia atropubescens f. aurea.

There is just one AOS awards on Sobralia atropubescens - Sobralia atropubescens ‘Cottage Orchids - Glen Gary’ CBR/AOS (0 points) in August 24, 2019.


2 flowers and 1 bud on top of 3 canes 30 cm and 32 cm tall.

The plant is 33 cm in height and 31 with.

This Sobralia has been purchased from Tropical Orchid Farm, Hawaii about 3 years ago. Labeled as Sobralia sp. ‘Like atropubescens’.

Flower Measurements:

NS H - 8.2 cm (When flower opened within first 2 hours), then NS - 6.8 cm (when lateral sepals recurved);

NS V - 6.5 cm;

Dorsal Sep. W - 1.2 cm; Dorsal Sep. L - 4.0 cm;

Petal W - 1.2 cm; Petals L - 3.5 cm;

Lat/Synsepal W - 1.1 cm; Lat/Synsepal L -4.1 cm;

Lip/Pouch W - 2.0 cm; Lip/Pouch L - 4.0 cm.

Sobralia atropubescens f. aurea (Christenson, Bol. CAOB 66-67: 57 (2007), WCSP (Kew)

Judges' Comments

Al Messina

Two flowers and 1 bud on 3 inflorescences. Species has CBR which is the correct award for this plant (species). As a different color form of a previously recognized species, it would qualify for a CHM (as a newly recognized color form). This displays an unusual quirk in the AOS judging system where a non-horticulturally desirable species receives a CHM ---horticultural merit! Perhaps in the future some perspicacious grower will find some merit in ?color, ?growth habit or other trait in this largely fugacious genus to merit the award. There are 61 hybrids registered. It would be nice to see what the results might be.

Thanks for allowing me to participate.

Tom Mirenda

On Sobralia atropubescencs forma aurea

I’m sure we can all relate to the difficulty of bringing a Sobralia to judging.

It is unlikely that it could ever really be done in the traditional way, so it is a welcome exercise to review it through these photos. Indeed, within one judging session the flowers could change enough in form, that it would be a different award one hour later….or become un-awardable very quickly…

This is an extremely lovely color form of a good compact Sobralia species. Since Sobralias can be large, rangy giants, better suited to tropical landscaping than pot culture, these more compact species are better for portable collections, and I consider that a plus towards awardability. S. atropubescens has a certain charm, but its colors tend toward muddiness.

This color form has terrific, and beautiful coloration worthy of a flower quality award. Particularly if it could be presented immediately on opening, before it reflexes or deliquesces, as is common in this species and Sobralias in general.

The initial picture is certainly an awardable bloom. Probably worthy of an AM, but as said earlier, presenting it at a judging in this pristine state would likely be impossibility.

Then of course there is the matter of its identity. I believe SITF was consulted in this case. I am curious to know what they think of it. Color is variable in many orchid species, and not adequate to classify differently, but the description from TOF implies that this might be a regional variation, that could possibly be described by a botanist as a particular forma, or even possibly a species, particularly if there is geographic or reproductive isolation from the typical form populations.

For now, I think we would have to limit ourselves to awarding this as a CHM for the color form until more is known about its origin and collection data.

Ed Weber

I'm torn by this flower. On the one hand it is beautiful to look at. The color is intense and pleasing. The lip is delightful. The white picotee on the segments, at least the parts we can see, is nice. On the other hand, how does one evaluate a flower that may last 6 hours if you are lucky? This certainly explains the paucity of awards to sobralias in our database.

Still, it is here so let's apply the method.

The flower / bud count does not stand up to the CBR on file making it, in my opinion, ineligible for a flower or culture award. But, you don't see this sort of thing every day.

I was thinking about a CHM, but then in the back of my mind I kept hearing Doctor Wilson who one time, when another judge suggested a CHM for an unusual plant, asked "What about this plant is horticulturally meritorious?" I might be convinced to nominate it for a JC based on the uniqueness of the color and to get it on the record.

Kudos to the grower for being able to capture both the new and old aspects of the flower and for cultivating such an interesting species and sharing it with us.

Mark Hachadourian

Wow! That is very interesting –

I think it could be an alba or aurea form of Sobralia atropubescens.

I will send along to the Sobralia experts and see if they agree.

Wonderful thank you for sharing – is that in a US collection

Marc Hachadourian

Director of Glasshouse Horticulture and Senior Curator of Orchids

New York Botanical Garden

Bob Winkley

Thanks for forwarding the current candidate. I think there are lots of great things going for this plant and flower. Plant habit appears very compact for a Sobralia, the size of the flower good, the segments full, and the color of the flower is quite beautiful and clear. The kinetic nature of the flowers preclude consideration of a flower award for me - this would surely show up on the judging table since it appears that the flatness is an early morning aspect - but this is a perfect candidate for the CHM in my opinion since it is both a distinct plant and color form. I would likely score it in the mid 80s for that award.

All the best,

Bob W.

Tom Mirenda

I did contact Kathy and Jeff at Tropical Orchid Farm.

They were quite interested in seeing the images

And replied that it was very ‘beautiful’

But didn’t offer any further information

I will follow up though, as it could possibly be classified a bit differently based on where it came from

If you want to ask a question, Kathy is usually willing to answer …she is a doll!

Did SITF have anything to say about it?


Kenneth Roberts (SITF)

I do not think this is correctly identified. If you compare the flowers to the Icones Plantarum Tropicarum Plate 303, the lip does not look right. Unfortunately none of the flowers have been taken apart, so a good comparison cannot be made. In the future I would suggest that you include flowers that have been taken apart.


Kenneth A. Roberts

Tom Mirenda

Icones are botanical references created by botanists to define species they have described.

It is a very large investment of time, space and treasure to collect them

Though I think many are available on-line….or through botanical libraries.

This is why we leave it to SITF to determine. It would be nice if Ken Roberts could scan and send Icones images

And then network with botanists, say, at Lankester Gardens in Costa Rica to make IDs.

Whoever owns this plant should probably dissect a flower, or at the very least, measure all the flower parts and record on the SITF form before requesting an ID from them….there is no way to really do an ID or description based solely on photos. It may also be that a herbarium sheet should be prepared and sent to one/some of the excellent herbaria, say at NYBG or the Smithsonian.

Deb Bodei

Thank you for including my commentary. Beautiful plant and lovely flower!

Sobralia atropubescens f. aurea

Observations and Commentary

This plant is very well grown, presents the blooms very nicely and the compact growth habit makes it a desirable plant for any collection. The yellow form is certainly attractive and it seems to have been photographed at its peak which allows us the opportunity to observe the short-lived bloom before it began to fade.


I would certainly nominate this plant for a CHM and predict it to score in the 81-85 point range. The color form is certainly worthy of being recognized since it has not yet been.



Mark Werther

Sobralia atropubescens f. aurea (by Christenson).

This Sobralia is quite interesting as I am used to seeing the flat flower cattleya looking type. It is interesting as the standard form's picture is so contorted that it is almost unusable.

I like the flower and the tricolor suggests it is a flavistic form or an entirely different species. This is an easy one as I think it should be nominated for a CHM.

I find the consistent reflexing to be attractive.

How is the flower to be identified? Unless the owner can send off multiple pictures and measurements to an expert(s) how does one find out except rely on Sergey's or Al Messina's bird dog hunting techniques. Even with that it should still be affirmed by an expert(s).

Since it is not awarded, the SITF presently has positioned itself to only evaluate awarded flowers.

For years I have suggested the AOS have some staff either permanent or consulting to provide identification on new species.

I believe the AOS should have or at least support some sort of service. I believe a reasonable fee be requested if not an awarded plant.

Mark Werther

Exhibitor - Sergey and Elena Skoropad, NJ (Associate Judges, Mid-Atlantic Judging Center)