Stelis macrophylla
Stelis macrophylla plate from
The Orchid Album

Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Asparagales
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Tribe: Epidendreae
SubTribe: Pleurothallidinae
Genus: Stelis
Swartz 1800
Type Species
Stelis ophioglossoides

Stelis is a large group of orchids, with perhaps 500 species. It is abbreviated as Ste. in horticultural trade.


These mainly epiphytic (rarely lithophytic plants are distributed throughout damp mountain forests in tropical North and Central America.


Many of the older species were named by Lindley, Ruiz & Pavon and Reichenbach, while many of the recent species were named by Dr. C. Luer. An orchid of the genus Stelis was probably the first American orchid ever to be brought to Europe. An herbarium specimen was depicted in 1591 in Tabernaemontanus' herbal book.

A single oblanceolate leaf develops from narrow, leathery outgrowths from a creeping stem. Most species grow long, dense racemes of small to minute flowers in diverse shades of white. Other colors are rare. These flowers are photosensitive, only opening in the sunlight. Some close completely at night. The three symmetrically rounded sepals generally form a triangle with a small central structure, made up of the column, small petals and small lip, though slight variation to this theme does occour.

This genus is not common in cultivation.


Keep plant in partial shade. Plant can be grown in cool to intermediate conditions. Pot the plant in fine bark with perlite or sphagnum moss. Water regularly and keep potting media moist.


The generic name Stelis is the Greek word for 'mistletoe', referring to the epiphytic habit of these species.


  1. Apatostelis Garay 1980
  2. Dialissa Lindley 1845
  3. Humboldtia Ruiz & Pavon 1794


Cladistic research (by A. Pridgeon, R. Solano and M. Chase) has shown that the genus Stelis is monophyletic. But the distinction with several Pleurothallis subgenera is blurred (see Reference).

They are closely related to the massive genus Pleurothallis and Masdevallia. Although vegetatively the species show much variety, the flowers show a basic uniformity and are very similar throughout.

Species Edit

See List of Stelis species


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  • Dr. C. Luer - Icones Pleurothallidinarum XXIV: A first century of new species of Stelis of Ecuador. Part 1 (2002); ISBN 1-930723-15-6
  • Dr. C. Luer - Icones Pleurothallidinarum XXVI: Pleurothallis subgenus Acianthera and three allied subgenera; A Second Century of New Species of Stelis of Ecuador; Epibator, Ophidion, Zootrophion (2004); ISBN 1-930723-29-2