Sinningia sp. "Black Hill"

  1. Comparison to S. reitzii
  2. S. "Black Hill" in habitat
  3. Feature table

Sinningia sp. "Black Hill" was grown from seed collected near Morro Preto in Brazil (Morro Preto means "black hill" in Portuguese).  At first it was believed to be a variety of S. reitzii.  When the differences were recognized, it was given the holding name of S. aff. reitzii.  I use the name "Black Hill" to avoid prejudging its relationships and to avoid confusing this plant with the real S. reitzii (the "aff." often gets dropped on plant labels).

I don't believe it is obvious this is a new species.  It shares many properties with S. reitzii, and differs from that species in a few important respects, but I'm not a professional botanist who would know how many differences were enough.  All I believe is that it is worth having a name to describe this population of individuals, which differs in predictable ways from the standard population of S. reitzii.

According to one report, the DNA suggests that S. "Black Hill" might be distinct from S. reitzii.  On the other hand, Alain Chautems has since indicated this may not actually be true or the differences insufficient for declaring a separate species.

Note the pedicel for the flower at top center.  A second flowerbud also emerges from the same axil.  Both pedicels originate in the axil.  There is no peduncle (or at most an extremely short one).  Sinningia reitzii has multiple flowers per axil, with an inflorescence that starts with a peduncle usually at least an inch [2.5 cm] long.

Comparison between S. "Black Hill" and S. reitzii

The following table shows the similarities and differences between S. reitzii and S. sp. "Black Hill".

  S. sp. "Black Hill" S. reitzii
Growth habit Erect perennial stem with indeterminate growth.  Stubs of previous years' stems remain attached to the tuber. Erect perennial stem with indeterminate growth.  Stubs of previous years' stems remain attached to the tuber.
Tuber Tuber is multi-lobed, with runners and satellite tubers (see a picture) Single multi-lobed tuber (see a picture)
Inflorescence 1-2 (rarely more than 2) flowers per axil, no peduncle Several flowers per axil, peduncle 2-3 cm [one inch] long
Flower shape Tubular, sometimes compressed vertically, so tube is wider than high Tubular, sometimes compressed laterally, so tube is higher than wide
Flower color Magenta Usually red
Leaves Glossy appearance, red midrib Matte appearance
Seedling leaves Resemble adult leaves, but with a silvery sheen. Darker, with maroon backs. Red backs, upper surface almost black, with white herringbone stripe.

S. "Black Hill" in habitat

This picture was taken at the entrance to Morro Preto cave in April 1999.  For clumsy photographers like me, a digital camera is a great advantage, but this was before I had one, so the flower is not quite in focus (no, it's not your eyes).  Even so, one can note the single flower per axil and its magenta color, two things I have never observed in the true S. reitzii.

Black Hill

Black Hill

The seed that yielded the plants I call "Black Hill" was not collected here, however.  There were large signs in several languages warning that collecting of any kind was illegal, so I didn't do any.  Later that same day, there was an opportunity to gather some seed beside a road.  The plants seemed to be the same as the ones we had seen near the cave.  The picture shows a flower from one of the seedlings, in cultivation in Californnia.

"Morro Preto" would have been an inaccurate name for the plants, because that's not where the seed was from.  Nonetheless, "Black Hill" seemed like a useful mnemonic.  It's certainly a lot closer to the mark than Sinningia "New Zealand", the holding name for the plant which turned out to be S. reitzii!

(An additional issue is that Morro Preto is pronounced something like Mo-Roo Pret-too, which is not going to roll easily off English-speaking tongues.)

Feature table for Sinningia "Black Hill"

Plant Description

Growth Indeterminate
Habit Upright perennial stem
Leaves Dark green tinged purple. Lustrous. Reverse maroon or red-tinged, depending on light. Seedlings have silvery sheen when young.
Dormancy Stem perennial, does not die back to tuber


Inflorescence axillary cymes
Season Blooms in summer to early autumn
Flower Magenta, tubular.  Inflorescence not pedunculate.  See a comparison with other sinningia flowers.

Horticultural aspects

Hardiness Has survived 30F (-1C) in my yard
Recommended? Yes, for its foliage.  The flowers are neither abundant nor striking.


Hybrids with this taxon See listing.
Hybridizing Can provide good foliage and flower color to hybrids; see S. 'Distant Lights', the hybrid with S. leopoldii.  Jim Steuerlein has crossed it with S. bullata and S. macrostachya, and Jon Dixon crossed it with S. gigantifolia.