»Sobralia macrantha», in the UFM

Sobralia macrantha in UFM’s Arboretum

The Sobralia macrantha is an orchid whose survival strategy is extraordinary.  

«None of its floral cocoons opens individually, sword of speaking.  All of its mature floral cocoons enter latency (dormancy) and wait for less mature or developed cocoons, from other plants of the same species, reach their maturity. Once all the cocoons from different plants or bushes (of the same species of Sobralia) in an entire region, have reached the same degree of maturity, a sudden regional climatic event must happen, such as the sudden temperature loss after a heavy rain, so that all the floral cocoons of all the different plants from that area opened at the same time, synchronously», the biologist Héctor Castañeda explained.

«This is a strategy that maximizes the opportunity of pollination of the species, becoming attractive for the specific pollinizer that is the bumblebee of the Bombus gender.  The regretful thing of this flowering is that their flowers remain open for a few hours only; being in the right place and moment to enjoy this unique spectacle in nature is a true lottery», he added.

Last June 8th, during the morning, Sobralia that grow in the Arboretum of Universidad Francisco Marroquín bloomed right front of the Ludwig von Mises Library, in the pond that is beneath that building. In the small island, in the middle of the pond there are plenty of those beautiful plants.

The orchids of the Sobralia gender are epiphytes and there are around 50 species in the American continent. In Guatemala the presence of 8 of those 50 recognized species is reported, Sobralia macrantha. These plants measure 1.50 meters in height from the ground. They have several growth strategies.  The first option, used by other epiphytes, is to grow on trees. Its second growth strategy is on rocks and its last option is to grow on the ground. 

Sobralia macrantha is located in Guatemala between the 1.000 to 3.400 meters above the sea level.  The potential to find new species of this sort in Central America is at the Atlantic coast of Guatemala.

Sobralia, like any other gender of Orchids, bloom once a year, just around this time and it is characterized because, unlike the rest of the 900 gender of orchids in the world, they presents a floral gregarious syndrome; this is that all the floral cocoons, from different plants of a determined species of the Sobralia gender, reach maturity in different days within a same period of time.

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