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Sophronitis coccinea is the best known species of a relatively small genus in the Laeliinae.
Other well known species in the genus, as it is accepted for now, are Sophronitis wittigiana
(S. rosea), S. brevipedunculata and S. cernua.
Excluding Sophronitis cernua, the other species have quite similar growth habits that
reflect basically adaptation to habitat conditions; also their flowers are extremely similar, except for the color.
The species grows on trees in the tropical slope
forest of the Serra do Mar, the first mountain range from the coast and parallel to it. These mountains block most
of the moisture coming from the coast and thus have extremely high humidity levels, usually with daily long hours
of fog above an average of 1500 ft. more or less. With this, the humidity levels are extremely high and Sophronitis coccinea plants are very well adapted to it. The species is usually found at altitudes above 700-800
(2500 ft., give or take) meters and up to 1800 (600 ft.) meters, depending on particular location. In any case,
plants grow on trees at slopes facing the sea.
Sophronitis coccinea, besides being a gem by itself, have been used extensively in hybridizing, and is very
dominant in terms of color and size. Unfortunately, it is also dominant in low flower count and weak flower spike.
The first generation hybrids, especially, show very well all these positive and negative trends. It usually takes
quite a few generations to get rid or lessen the negative features influence.
Distribution Map for Sophronitis coccinea.
The range is vast, almost always on the same type of habitat and with lower elevation in the State of São
Paulo. There is a lot of flower shape and size variation, especially on the more southern populations, but intermediate
forms prevent species separation.
||Sophronitis coccinea can be extremely abundant in this type of slope tropical rain forest. 1
and 2 were taken in the State of São Paulo, at a forest section facing the sea; altitude
here is about 800 m/sm (2500 ft.) and clouds cover the forest almost every day during late afternoon and night.
The first picture gives a general idea of the habitat, with more mountains in the background, and the second one
is a closer picture of a plant growing under shadier conditions inside the forest.
Usual flower color is a very intense orange-red, sometimes more to the orange and sometimes to fire-engine red.
Albino forms are getting more widespread these days by the means of mericloning or selfing, and have a very showy
butter yellow color. On 3 we can see a good- shaped, typical jungle diploid form. Flower
size is about 2" (4-5 cm.), but can be as large as 4" (10 cm.)
On 4, we can see one of the tetraploid forms produced artificially by colchicine treating. The
flower size is not increased by much, but shape is much rounder and substance much heavier. These plants are a
real breakthrough, not only because of the excellent flower quality, but also because they allowed for tetraploids
right away when crossed with standard cattleyas.