Sobralia species

Week 106: April 29, 2024

Sobralia species

New candidate for this month is Sobralia species.

Plant entered as a Sobralia yauaperyensis.

Sobralia yauaperyensis, Barb. Rodr. (1891), is accepted species by POWO, Kew. The native range of this species is S. Tropical America. It is a perennial and grows primarily in the wet tropical biome.

Previous Awards:

There are no AOS awards for this species

There are 57 AOS awards for genus Sobralia in total, including multiple botanical, flower and cultural awards.


Candidate has 2 flowers on 2 inflorescences. Plant is 38-cm wide and 94-cm tall and growing in 12.5-cm square cymbidium pot in soft tree fern.

This plant was bought from Ecuagenera, they noted that this species found in the Yauapery region of Paraguay. Photos of the label and information from Ecuagenera website are attached.

Flowers were photographed in 8.53 AM.

At the 5.23 pm flowers were done (2 photos on the bottom).

Flower Measurements:

NS H - 6.2 cm;                   NS V - 4.8 cm;

Dorsal Sep. W - 1.4 cm;    Dorsal Sep. L - 4.2 cm;

Petal W - 1.7 cm;               Petals L - 3.9 cm;

Lat/Sepal W - 1.5 cm;       Lat/Sepal L - 4.1 cm;

Lip/Pouch W - 2.5 cm;     Lip/Pouch L - 3.2 cm.

Additional photos of Sobralia species

Judges' Comments

Al Messina (Accredited Judge, Northeast Judging Center)

This has a CHM (19890910) July,1989.  Sob. yauaperyensis and Sob. yauaperyensis appear to be conspecific: y vs i as the only confounder, likely an error from vendor/taxonomist/purchaser.

Photo in OP not optimal but appears to be a slightly different color form of same species.

CHM quite generous for flower lasting less than one day. CBR is my preference.


Andy (Andy’s Orchids Inc., CA,

I think the name is incorrect. It looks to me like decora or galeottiana.

Sobralia yauaperyensis

Sobralia yauaperyensis

These are all decora types.

Sobralia decora (Belize)

          Sobralia species decora type (Ecuador)             

Sobralia galeottiana

Sobralia sessilis

Kris Mason (Accredited Judge, Cincinnati Judging Center)

Thank you for this beautifully grown and flowered Sobralia. Sobralia is a favorite and I wish I could figure out how to grow them. It is nice really to catch the flowers at their peak. These are beautiful and interesting flowers, and for me, the plant is an added bonus. I would grow them just for the plants (if I could keep them alive).

The following is on record for AOS and I suspect has a spelling error as the photo closely resembles the botanical descriptions.

Sobralia yauaperiensis ‘Matsuyo Nakayama’ CHM (85 points) July 10, 1989 

I found several formal published descriptions:  I have included 3 as well as a botanical drawing and article:


Epiphytes with terete to slightly compressed, erect stems to 1 m. Leaves 4 or 5, broadly lanceolate, plicate, stiff, to 16 X 5 cm. Inflorescences terminal, without pedunculate continuation of stem, subtended by slightly reduced leaf. Flowers large, showy, rose-purple with yellow center of lip; sepals lanceolate, acute, 7 X 2-2.4 cm; petals lanceolate, acute, crenulate in apical half, 6.5 X 2.5 cm; lip unlobed, obovate, emarginate, crenulate in apical half, with paired, basal, keellike projections and linear ridges to near apex, 7 X 5.5 cm; column clavate, 4.5 cm long. Fl (May). Purple-flowered species of Sobralia are in need of critical revision and Saul plants referred to S. yauaperyensis may be reidentified following further study.


4. Sobralia yauaperyensis Barb.Rodr., Vellozia, ed. 2, 1:

131. 1891. - TYPE: Brazil, Barbosa Rodrigues s.n. (not

localized) (Fig. 14).

Description : Stem 90-120 cm tall, glabrous, flexuose, leafy mainly in the upper part, often with keikis growing from the old inflorescences. Leaves up to 22 x 8 cm, oblong-lanceolate, acuminate. Inflorescence terminal, cone-like, with one flower at a time. Rowers white or deep purple or rosy, labellum darker than other floral segments, with basal part yellowish. Sepals connate basally. Dorsal sepal 44-54 x 13-15 mm, lanceolate, acute. Lateral sepals ca. 44-54 x 15-18 mm, lanceolate, acute. Petals ca. 44-50 x 14-17 mm, obovate, widely acute to rounded. Labellum 44-50 x 28-32 mm, oblong, with a pair of short, white, lamellate calli at the base, neither thickenings along the nerves, nor any other proturberances on the centre, margins somewhat críspate, apex retuse, recurved. Gynostemium 25-30 mm long, apical stelidia short, recurved, acute.

Ecology :

352 P. Baranów, D. Szlachetko

Distribution area : Guyana, Fr

Additional specimens exami

Alaparoubo, affluent du fleuve

1969, de Granville 204 (MO!, P

May 1973, de Granville 1864 (MO!, P!); Saul, 11 Sep

1986, 3°38'N 53°12'W, Freiberg 129 (Bl); Saul, La Fumee

Mt. La Fume West Trail, 200 m a. s. 1., 3°37'N, 53°12'W, 8

May 1986, Mori and Pennington 17932 (MO!, NY!, P!),

Site du Barrage de Petit Saut (récolté vivant AFCPO

01-1994), cultivé au jardin botanique Cherbourg (CH601),

Parc Emmanuel Liais, 9 Feb 1999, Pignal 315 (P!).

Notes: The species is very similar to S. sessilis. The two can be distinguished by their leaf sheaths and floral bract surfaces. These structures are glabrous in S. yauaperyensis

and dark-hirsute in S. sessilis. Further study is necessary to clarify the taxonomie status of both species

Sobralia yauaperyensis Barb. Rodr.

Native to Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia

Edited 27 April 2010
© Nina Rach

Original publication by Barb. Rodr. In Villosia 1, ed. 2: 131 91891)

Sobralia yauaperyensis

This species grows as a terrestrial or epiphyte, attaining a height of about 1 meter. Each stem bears 4 or 5 leaves along the top 25%; leaves grow to 5 cm wide x 16 cm long. They are thin, very stiff, medium green, and plicate. Flowers are terminal; sepals are deep rose-purple with clear veins, petals are pale rose-purple along margins of basal half, the lip is pale rose-purple with darker margins, grading to white at the base. Callus of lip has yellow ridges, column is white with slight pink at apex; anther cap and pollinia are pale cream.

Dr. Eric Christenson has been studying this genus, and has come to the conclusion that,
"The real S. yauaperyensis is a Brazilian endemic epiphyte (we were wrong in French Guiana also)"
(pers. comm. 14 July 2003).

In 1995, David E. Bennett and Christenson published plates 201-400 of the Icones Orchidacearum Peruviarum, and included "Sobralia yauaperyensis" in that compilation. He says "Our pl. 382 is Sobralia virginalis. We followed Dunsterville's S. yauaperyensis var. alba which is also S. virginalis. Sobralia virginalis is common in Peru and was called S. violacea by Schweinfurth who commented on how odd it was that all S. violacea in Peru were white-flowered, not violet." (pers. comm. 18 Dec. 2003).

Therefore, for plants under the name Sobralia yauaperyensis, arising from countries other than Brazil, please refer to Sobralia violacea or to Sobralia virginalis.

All botanical descriptions I have found specifically mention the yellow in the base of the lip.  In addition, the shape of the petals and lip appear to be different from the botanical drawing. 

This submission seems to more closely fit with the botanical description of decora and looks closer to some (but not all) of the awarded decora

I have also included a link to Dressler's article on Sobralias from Dec 2012. 

I general, publications states that Sobralias are challenging to identify and needs lots of scientific review to solidify taxonomy.

As it appears yauaperyensis has a CHM and decora has also been recognized by AOS, without more firm identification it would be difficult to go further with this submissions.

Paul Wetter (Senior Judge, West Palm Beach Judging Center)

Thank you for presenting this very interesting Sobralia.   

The plant shown has a very interesting form and striking color form. A very nice flowers and plant.

There was an AOS CHM award in 1989 for Sobralia yauaperiensis ‘Matsuyo Nakayama”.

As you stated the currently accepted spelling is with a y and a previous AOS CHM award spelled with i, seem to be a slight variation in spelling of the same species.  The form and color of the flowers in today’s Virtual submission are quite varied from the CHM award photo of Sobralia yauaperyensis “Matsuyo Nakayama", albeit a different clone. The more common Sobralia macrantha which has been awarded a number of times has a much larger fuller form. So, there is a challenge here for me and perhaps there is more for me to learn and am very interested in others thoughts and comments.

I would not nominate for a quality award on this blooming, but thank you for submitting this very interesting plant. I look forward to learning more.

Best Regards

Paul Wetter



Pepe Portilla (Ecuagenera, Ecuador,

Hi Serge,

Now is Sobralia biflora.

Greetings my friend.

Pepe Portilla


Kris Mason (Accredited Judge, Cincinnati Judging Center)

I've attached a good article I found with detailed botanical descriptions.  Scroll down to (46 and 47) to see drawings and descriptions of biflora and decora.

Based on this reference, it does more closely fit biflora when comparing both plant and flower, although more exact measurements and closer images of the floral parts would be helpful to more accurately confirm.


Andy (Andy’s Orchids Inc., CA,

S. biflora is in the decora complex but almost always flowers with two flowers simultaneously often opposing each other. I have it and do agree to that name but ask if the plant always blooms with one flower or typically two.



Franco Pupulin (Lankester Botanical Garden, Costa Rica; University of Costa Rica)

In the Herbarium of the Royal Botanic Garden of Madrid (MA) three sheets of Sobralia biflora are conserved, one of which has the original label written in Ruiz’ handwriting. Unfortunately, none of the specimens has flowers, but they nonetheless clearly indicates that the stems do not produced lateral growths from the older inflorescences, as your specimen do.

In MA is also conserved the original painting by Isidro Gálvez of the plant that Ruiz and Pavón described in 1798 as S. biflora. The cone-like inflorescence in Gálvez’ painting has two simultaneous flowers, showing that this condition is possible in this species, even though not necessary. Given the structure of the inflorescence, that is typical of true Sobralia, I would say that Sobralia biflora would produce successive flowers, which are mostly exerted singly, and occasionally in pairs. I discussed the identity of S. biflora in my second paper on the Orchidaceae of Ruiz and Pavón’s expedition to South America, whichI am attaching (see p. 164).

The vegetative architecture prevents, in any case, to identify your specimen as S. biflora

Looking at the shape of the flower and the vegetative architecture, one should be tempted to identify your specimen as S. decora, but I have my doubts. Bob Dressler discussed the”group” of S. decora in an interesting paper, which is available here: Bob's paper mainly focuses on Central American species, but spreads some light on this complex of species as a whole.

The true Sobralia decora is from northern Central America (the type is from Guatemala) and is a quite “compact” and bushy plant. Towards the South, at least from Nicaragua and may be down to Ecuador, Sobralia fenzliana (the type is from Panama) is pretty similar, but has much taller plants (to 2 meters or more) and larger flowers. The sepals in S. fenzliana are distinctly narrower (see illustration in Pupulin 1998, available from this page:, and even though flowers of the true S. decora are usually pale rose compared to the purple flowers of S. fenzliana,  both species have a very distinct, somewhat “shiny" white flush on the apex of lip, which is much more evident than the faint stripe shown on the flower of your specimen. Sobralia fenzliana may be also distinguished by the up-turned shape of the column wings, but this is a detail that we can not observe well from your photographs. 

We do not know from where your specimen originally came, assuming that Pepe reproduced it from seed. The name, Sobralia yauaperyensis (the type: Brazil), applies to a species seemingly reported from all South America, both Andean and Atlantic. The species is likely close to the group of S. decora, as the “stems" - according to Barboza Rodrigues’ description - are branched. The lip is deeply emarginate, with crisped margins. This is not incompatible with your specimen.

In the absence of any other particular reason to refuse using the name Sobralia yauaperyensis, I personally think that is safer to identify it according to the label presented by the owner. 




Mary Cash (Student Judge, Alamo Judging Center)

The coloration is gorgeous as it flows from the light outer colors to the darker central coloration. The flower appears to have not reached its full potential at the time of the photo. With the understanding that the blooms last for just hours, a 24 hour video would be an option to make sure its greatest potential is captured. The petal and the lip are trying all so hard to reach their full formation and potential.  I would pass on this plant at this time. Looking forward to seeing it in its next blooming season. 

Beautiful – How exciting!




Franco Pupulin (Lankester Botanical Garden, Costa Rica; University of Costa Rica)

As you see, Sergey, your job is still more difficult than our, because we usually are in a better position to judge the taxonomic identity of a plant.

Unlike you, we usually deal with “populations”, not a scattered individual. This has some undeniable advantages. Looking at a population we have a broadest appreciation of what a “typical”, adult individual looks alike. 

Is your plant a flowering juvenile or has it reached its mature size? Among species of Sobralia with secondary stems emerging from the old inflorescences, only Sobralia decora from Central America and S. lowii, from South America, are dwarf species, with stems usually less than 60 cm tall. Sobralia fenzliana and other taxa of the same group can easily attain a size of 2 meters or more. As you understand, we can not extract this information from a single, cultivated plant, and less so from a photograph.

Standing in front of a population, you will also know for sure where the species “come from”, which is a very important piece in the puzzle. You do not have to fantasize about a plant reproduced from seed in South America from a parent (or worse, just a fruit) coming from any possible place on Earth, maybe in turn from another cultivated plant with no clear provenance... 

I do thing that the “Sobralia decora group” does not include more a dozen species, maybe less, and the geographical distribution of most taxa doesn’t overlap if not in eastern Panama and in Colombia, but without a clear origin of the specimen we have to guess.

We also have the advantage that we know what to look at in a plant to identify it. Has your specimen a fine, sparse and short vellum covering the leaves and the foliar sheaths or not? If not, this can exclude from the list S. lowii, which do has this hairs.

Are the parastigmatic wings of the column shorter than  the column or barely reaching its apex, or are instead long and up-curved as sort of cow horns? This character alone would be critical to identify your specimen as Sobralia fenzliana, but we can not appreciate it from the photos.

I checked again the photographic material of our documented collections from Costa Rica. 

I would say that the flowers of S. decora are usually smaller and paler compared to those of S. fenzliana, with a beautiful purple lip against pink sepals and petals, usually a bit darker towards the apex. The distal portion of the lip is just lightly undulated , with the margins revolute. The flowers of Sobralia fenzliana are larger and darker, with both sepals and petals, as well as the lip, of a rich purple. The lip is distinctly waved at the apex and the margin is just gently bent. 

Should your plant be “originally” from Central America, I would identify it as Sobralia decora, but as you understand I am just guessing some of the critical information.

All the best, and luck with your job!




Pam Noll (Student Judge, Alamo Judging Center)

Sobralias are intriguing because they are pretty, reasonably sized plants, and come from so many places in this hemisphere. Very interesting research to identify this plant.  While looking up previously awarded S. decora, it appeared to me that there may be some misidentification there also. Compared to other similar- looking Sobralia decora, this particular plant doesn’t have the measurements for a quality award.    


Pamela Noll

Bob Winkley (Accredited Judge, Northeast Judging Center)

Thank you for getting clarification regarding the ID of this month's candidate. My comments are based on its being identified as Sobralia decora.

The color of the flowers is quite nice, especially the contrast provided by the darker coloration within the lip. The form of the flowers appears to be pretty typical of the species with the petals held nearly porrect and the sepals canted forward.

The candidate appears to be a fairly young plant - Sobralia decora is a fairly robust grower. I say this because the number of flowers presented compared to prior flower quality awards is definitely on the low side. Also, the overall flower size and measurements of individual segments is slightly smaller than the majority of the awards excluding the original CHM. As the plant builds up bio-mass I would expect to see more flowers perhaps slightly larger in overall size. It would also be desirable if the sepals were held in a flatter plane.

It's a real challenge to get most Sobralias to the judging table due to the ephemeral nature of the flowers. It would be a treat for us if the plant did in fact make it to the judging table. However, I would not be inclined to nominate this plant and would likely recuse myself if a nomination did come in from the floor.

All the best - 

Bob W.


Steve Gonzalez (Accredited Judge, Chicago Judging Center)

This is a complicated subject.  I have had many Sobralias in 30+ years and corresponded with Eric Christiansen and Ted Green about their true identities.  I was awarded a CBR for Sob. fenzliana ‘Aibonito’ in 2000 which was identified by Selby BG.  This plant was a keiki I brought back from Puerto Rico in 1995 from a family friend that said it was collected from Venezuela.  The award photo is not good.  I bring this up because I see the validity of all of discussion and confusion surrounding these types and I am no taxonomist.   I do feel (and hope) some day we will have a good book on Sobralias that sorts most of this out.  I HAVE a yauaperyensis that I acquired from Ecuagenera in 2002.  While some plants might not be what their tags say they are, I trust that Pepe’s record of where the Ecuagenera brought the plant from in Paraguay is true.  So, it IS NOT a Centro America Sob. decora then, yes flowers are larger? I corresponded with a grower in Trinidad that has a yauaperyensis that looks identical to my plant and I do - not - believe that I asked and he got his plant from Ecuagenera but it was labeled as yauaperyensis.  The subject plant this month is very similar to my flower, but my plant room is withing 70-85% RH most of the time, so the flowers seem to open further. It is my best performing Sobralia with up to 3 dozen flowers on a good flowering, once it had 3 flowers on a bract.

The crux is, what is the award that was given in 1989 and that is such a strange comment regarding the percentage certainty of what it might be by the OIC?

This plant is too small for a cultural award and maybe not be considered for a flower quality award.  What I would suggest, as we have done with may plants imported from South American growers, is a CBR (Handbook: “A taxon may be granted a second CBR only to correct a clear taxonomic error in the record and the description of such an award must clearly state the reason for the second award”) can be submitted to see if SITF can sort out the yauaperiensis/biflora/fenzliana part and then we would be taking a huge leap to demystifying 30+ years later the taxonomic data for a group of plants that is more widespread in cultivation now-a-days.  I do have an unflowered keiki I saved of fenzliana, with all of these flowers I will be looking more closely (and photographing) the lip form and column structure in the future on all of my plants. 

Joe Bryson (Accredited Judge, Florida North-Central Judging Center)

If you are going to take it for judging, I have a couple of suggestions. I would submit it as Sobralia decora (Does it have any keikis on the plant?). If awarded, mark it provisional with a statement that the judges wanted to verify the identity. With the SITF photos include a close-up (good resolution) of the leaves (S. lowii has hairs on its leaves) with a cross-section of a leaf, if possible and photos which show the column structure. Several different Sobralia can be differentiated by these features.

To get an identification of the plant outside of judging, I recommend when this comes back in bloom to take the additional photos stated above and send all to Diego Bogarin (His photo of S. decora is in the IOSPE) for another opinion. (copy to me if possible) I understand S. decora is widespread and blooms multiple times a year.

Sobralia is a difficult genus to identify, but with some more detailed, technical photos, we should be able to lockdown on this one.

I hope this helps.


Exhibitor - Bill Stender, PA

Grower's Advice

Well, that was an interesting read!  I am glad people dug into the taxonomy.  I have relabeled the plant and hope to continue growing it up.  I purchased the plant from Equagenera at the March 2022 Virginia Orchid Society annual meeting in Richmond.  I believe it was in bark when I purchased it, but it struggled to put on new growth.  I repotted it into a 6” sq cymbidium pot with New Zealand crushed tree fern and it has taken off.  It continues to produce side growths on existing growths and I have two new growths coming up now.  I keep this in cattleya light in my greenhouse which can get int the low 90’s int eh summer and mid 50’s in winter.