It is native to Mexico, Central and South America. The plants are more commonly terrestrial, but are also found growing epiphytically, in wet forests from sea level to about 8,800 ft. The genus was named for Dr. Francisco Sobral, a Spanish botanist. The genus is abbreviated Sob in trade journals.
Their reed-like stems range in height from about 1 ft (33 cm) (such as in Sobralia galeottiana) to 25–30 ft. (10 m) They have typically heavily veined, bilobed, plicate, apical leaves all along the stem. The inflorescences on the apex of the stem carry one or two successive ephemeral flowers with large sepals and petals. The short duration of the flower is caused by a self-digesting enzyme. The lip is entire or lobed and clasps the column at its base. This columns carries eight soft pollinia. These flowers range in color from pure white to yellow, green, pink, purple, red, brown, and even a blue violet.