Stan. whittenii from Chiapas, photo by G. Gerlach

Stanhopea whittenii

Soto Arenas, Salazar & G.Gerlach 2002

Native to México (Chiapas), Guatemala, and Belize.

Edited 18 November 2008
© Nina Rach


This species was named for Dr. Wm. Mark Whitten, Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, "specialist in the biology and classification of the subtribe Stanhopinae."


Original specimen collected in 1987 by Whitten, Gerardo Salazar, and Miguel Soto flowered in cultivation in 2005: "Flowers pale cream, lightly spotted with red-purple; proximal half of hypochile bright orange, with a pair of dark purple eyespots."

Wm. Mark Whitten

Photos at upper left and lower right by G. Gerlach, October 2003 about 1,500 m elevation between Comitán de Dominguez -> Las Margaritas, Chiapas, Mexico. Flower bears scant resemblance to the actual Dr. Whitten, at left.

Back of lip, photo by G. Gerlach

Photo at right shows the squared back of the hypochile.


Stanhopea whittenii is distinguished from Stanhopea oculata by its fewer flowers (2-3 in wild), and massive hypochile with a broader, shorter, bright orange base. It is often found at lower elevation than S. oculata. Fragrance is similar to, but stronger than both S. oculata and S. dodsoniana, and it has a touch of cinnamon-scent as well (trans-methyl cinnamate).



According to Soto Arenas (2002), this species grows as an epiphyte in lowland and lower montane rainforest, 300 to 1500 m. and flowers from July to September. It is the commonest Stanhopea in the Selva Lacandona (Lacandona Forest, eastern Chiapas; map below, right from SEMARNAT). It is sometimes found with S. graveolens, S. inodora, S. oculata, and S. dodsoniana.

Area of Selva Lacandona

In 2003, Soto Arenas noted that it is also found in Alta Verapaz and is confused with Stanhopea ruckeri from Nicaragua. He examined specimens from the collections of D.E. Breedlove (13043; 68659).

Printed References:

D.E. Breedlove (1981) "Introduction to the Flora of Chiapas," in: Breedlove, D.E. (ed.), Flora of Chiapas. Part 1. California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco. 35 pp.

P.M. Catling and V.R. Catling (1988) "An annotated list of the orchids of Belize," in: Orquidea (Mex.) 11: 63-102, fig. 3.

Rudolf Jenny (June 2004) "The Genus Stanhopea, Part II: S. nigripes to S. xytriophora," in: Caesiana 22: 146-291. Color & B&W photos, line-drawings, Italian/English.

Gerardo A. Salazar and Miguel A. Soto-Arenas (2003) "Stanhopea dodsoniana, S. whittenii," in: E. Hágsater y M.A. Soto (eds.), Icones Orchidacearum: Orchids of Mexico, parts 2-3. herbario AMO, México, D.F.

M. Soto Arenas, G.A. Salazar & Gunther Gerlach (2002) "Orchids of Mexico, Parts 2-3," in: Icones Orchidacearum 5-6, Plate 679. [text, location map, and detailed line drawing]

Miguel Angel Soto Arenas (2003) "Diversidad de orquideas en la region El Momon-Margaritas-Montebello [Chiapas]," Final report of CONABIO Project R225, from Nov. 30, 1998 to Sept. 30, 2001. [Acineta barkeri; Gongora galeata, leucochila, truncata; Stanhopea bucephalus, graveolens, inodora, saccata, whittenii]

W. Mark Whitten and Norris H. Williams (1992) "Floral fragrances of Stanhopea (Orchidaceae)," in: Lindleyana 7(3): 130-153.

Web References:

International Plant Names Index [IPNI],

LACANDON Rain Forest Region, México -- Data Sheet written by Olga Herrera-MacBryde (Smithsonian Institution) and Dr Rodrigo A. Medellín [Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).

Meyers Conservatory: Propagation of Stanhopea whittenii, a selfing of plant collected by Mark Whitten (3006): A HREF= "">
Photo of inflorescence:

Reproductive Biology of Orchids image bank, link:; Stanhopeinae Image Bank (Gunter Gerlach, Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg), 10 images of Stan. whittenii in Nov. 2008:

SEMARNAT: Selva Lacandona [SEMARNAT = Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales; Blvd. Adolfo Ruiz Cortines #4209, Jardines en la Montaña, Tlalpan, C.P. 14210; México, D.F.]

University of Florida Herbarium collections catalog, Accession number FLAS 218861. Link: "
Specimen collected 23 April 1987 in lower montane rain forest, Chiapas, Mexico-- Municipio of Ocosingo, Laguna Ocotalito, between Metzabok and Monte Libano, 64 km SE of the Chancala intersection, east shore of lake. Sympatric with Stanhopea dodsoniana, Gongora galeata, Gongora truncata. Flowered in cultivation at Univ. of Florida and added to Herbarium 11 Aug 2005.

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