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Laelia lobata is one of the showiest species of section Cattleyodes
of the genus Laelia. This section includes some of the showiest of all Brazilian
laelias, among the Laelia purpurata and L. tenebrosa.
Laelia lobata is closely related to L. purpurata,
but there are several differences that make the two species easily separated. Flowers of Laelia lobata are usually about 5" across, but can be bigger in rare cases which means they are
on average smaller than those of L.
purpurata. The segments are usually
broader in Laelia lobata, and the petal margins are wavy instead of reflexed as in
L. purpurata. the lip is also quite different, being more squarish in
Laelia lobata and rounder in L. purpurata.
The color of the segments is also quite different, being darker and much more uniform in Laelia lobata; color on the lip is also quite different, with much less contrast in Laelia lobata. Both species are very fragrant, but their fragrances are completely different.
Their distribution range doesn't overlap, the northernmost
limit of Laelia purpurata being more than 100 Km. to the southwest of the range of
L. lobata. Laelia lobata is extremely abundant in just one mountain inside Rio de
Janeiro City. Although the species can be found on other mountains nearby, and also on the other side of the Guanabara
Bay, the plants occur on much smaller quantities. This can tell how well adapted the plants are to specific habitat
conditions, and that is why growers usually found quite difficult to grow and especially get the plants to flower.
Of course, plants available these days all came from artificial propagation, and these are much easier to cultivate
and flower. But one thing remains, and this is the fact that the plants need plenty of light and air circulation
to bloom properly.
Distribution Map for Laelia lobata.
It has the more restrict distribution area of all of the species in the section Cattleyodes.
Besides the City of Rio de Janeiro, the only other places where the species occurs are a few rock slopes near Niterói,
across the Guanabara Bay.
||On 1, we have
a general view from the Pedra da Gávea, natural habitat of Laelia lobata.
What we see is the almost vertical wall that goes from about 100 (330 ft.) meters above sea level to almost 800
(2500 ft.) meters and faces the sea. The lavender spots that we can see are flowering clumps of Laelia lobata, and this picture was taken with a 500 mm telephoto lens to give an idea haw far the plants
are. There is some secondary forest at the base of the rock, and hiking (more like climbing) inside this forest
get us to this point (on 2), which is as close as we can get to the plants. From here
up, there is only bare rock with some sparse covering of small grasses, bromeliads, and various shrubs, mainly
Vellozia and Clusia. It is interesting that most plants of Laelia lobata grow only on this mountain, but they are so plentiful that it is difficult to conclude
how protected or under risk of fast extinction the species is. In any case, they are very well adapted, producing
an enormous amount of seedlings every year.
On 3, we have the normal color form of the species, a light to medium lavender on the segments,
and a veined lip in purple-lavender. On 4, we see one of the alba forms
found in nature. Throughout the year, about half a dozen individuals were found without pigmentation, and a few
other variants like coerulea and semi-alba are
even more scarce.