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Sophronitella is a MONOTIPIC
genus in the Laeliinae that, regardless of the what the name may imply, is not
very close to Sophronitis. Instead, it seems to be closer related to Isabelia, Pinelia and Constantia.
Sophronitella violacea is a small plant, rarely more than 2" tall, with longitudinally
keeled, fusiform and darkly pigmented pseudobulbs. Those are topped by two fairly thin leaves. The inflorescence
is protected by a small sheath on top of the pseudobulb, and can produce more than one flower on a long succession,
meaning that usually only one flower (or rarely 2) is open at a time. Those short inflorescences produce fairly
large flowers (about 1" or slightly more across) for such a small plant. The flowers themselves are quite
showy and very colorful, although the variation from plant to plant and even across populations seems to be almost
zero. This means that, even with such a wide distribution range, the flowers look always about the same regardless
of where the plants came from. And these plants come from a wide distribution area. Sophronitella violacea
is found on the mountains from Rio Grande do Sul to Espírito Santo, usually above 2000 ft. and where plants
are subject to intense light and frequent fog. The distribution range, though, goes more to the interior, and the
species can be found up to seasonally dry mountain ranges far from the coast in São Paulo and Minas Gerais
States; in this case, above 3000 ft. or so up to more than 4000 ft. Although there is not much fog there (or no
fog at all) during most of the year, the temperature drops considerably at night and this seems to be their survival
secret. And survive they do, and very well, as the species seems to be especially abundant under these conditions.
Plants are usually found on tree branches exposed to fairly strong sunlight, and in higher elevations they can
be found under full sunlight. Under these conditions, plants are sometimes found growing on rocks equally well.
Distribution Map for Sophronitella violacea.
The species has a very wide distribution range on varied habitats.
||On 1, we see Sophronitella violacea growing on a small tree at about 4000 ft. in the interior of Minas Gerais State. This is
the most common way plants are found, and as these forests are very open and trees quite short the plants are easily
spotted from the distance when in flower. On the same branch, we see plenty of encrusting lichens (those light
gray structures on the branch) and small bromeliads of the genus Tillandsia.
On 2, we see a close-up of a typical flower of Sophronitella violacea.
Color is absolutely the same regardless of plant, but this one has slightly wider than normal segments which makes
it more desirable for cultivation. Not to say that there was never a differently colored form found, several years
ago an alba was found with pure white flowers.