Sinningia brasiliensis

  1. Seedlings
  2. Culture
  3. Rhode Island Rule
  4. Feature table
  5. Hybridization with S. brasiliensis
  6. Publication and etymology

This picture showing the flower of Sinningia brasiliensis was taken 22 September 2008 in a greenhouse of the Geneva Botanic Garden in Switzerland.  Pretty striking, isn't it?  If this plant were easier to grow, it would be very popular.

This is a side view of a flower on the same plant.  The spotting, the greenish tinge, the large bell-shaped corolla opening, and the sturdy structure all suggest that this species is pollinated by bats, although I don't know if bats have ever been observed visiting these flowers in the wild.

The first picture shows a flower in the male phase, with the anthers ready to dispense pollen.  The second picture shows a flower in the female phase, the the stigma poised to receive pollen from a visitor.  Because it was in a greenhouse, the flower was likely to be disappointed, but a passing friendly botanist might do it a favor.

This picture shows a flower on a different plant in the same greenhouse.  The flower is the same shape, but about 50% larger, and with no spotting whatsoever, just a greenish shade.  It was so dramatic I neglected to ask where it had come from.


Young seedlings of this species are quite distinctive, with the dark leaves having a silvery sheen.  As with S. reitzii, the foliage tends to get more ordinary with age.


This plant has proven very difficult for me.  Because it is a tall plant, I have always grown it outdoors.  One year I had decent flowering, but other years have been a challenge.

In 2008, it had no flowers, and in the autumn was attacked by a mildew-like fungus.  In previous years, I had left the tuber in its pot, but in 2008, I stored the tuber in a paper bag, my standard method for keeping tubers over the winter.  In part, the intention was to try to leave the fungus problem behind.  This did not work out well.

Even though the tuber was kept dry all winter, the tuber had begun to rot by the time I opened the bag in March 2009.  There was no undamaged part of the tuber, so I had to discard it.

Bagged sinningia tubers sometimes (but rarely) die by drying out.  This was the only instance where I found that a tuber had rotted in the bag.  I don't know whether this was a result of depotting and bagging, or the aftermath of the fungus infection that it suffered in summer and autumn 2008.

The Rhode Island Rule

Sinningia brasiliensis is an object lesson for all botanists who name plants.  Don't name a plant after any area larger than Rhode Island!

Sinningia brasiliensis means "the sinningia that grows in Brazil".  Well, duh.  First, Brazil is a very big place, and S. brasiliensis grows only in a little part of it.  But worse, almost every sinningia species is native to Brazil.  "The sinningia that grows in Brazil" is most unhelpful as a name.

In mitigation, we can point out two things.  The original name was Lietzia brasiliensis, and since there was only one Lietzia species, "the lietzia that grows in Brazil" wasn't ambiguous, even if really really uninformative.  Also, there is [was] a worse gesneriad name.  China is even bigger than Brazil, and there are lots of chiritas native to China, so "the chirita that grows in China" -- Chirita sinensis -- is an incredibly dumb name.

[As it happens, the genus Chirita got annihilated, so there is no more Chirita sinensis.  Even better (or worse, depending on your viewpoint), the species name "sinensis" has already been used in its new context, so a different species name was applied: Primulina dryas.  The upshot is that Sinningia brasiliensis is back to being the champion violator of the Rhode Island Rule in the gesneriad family.]

So: remember the Rhode Island Rule!

Feature table for Sinningia brasiliensis

Plant Description

Growth Indeterminate
Habit Stems upright at first, may sprawl when taller
Leaves Green
Dormancy Stems fully deciduous.


Inflorescence Flowers on extended axis
Season Blooms in late summer
Flower Pale pink/yellow

Horticultural aspects

Hardiness Has survived 28 F (-2 C) in my yard.
Recommended? Not until I figure out how to grow it in the open.  It is a tall plant, unsuitable for indoor cultivation, but may flourish in a greenhouse.


Hybrids with this species See listing.


Taxonomic group The core group of the Corytholoma clade.

Publication and Etymology

Etymology: brasil + -ensis ("resident of").

Publication: Lietzia brasiliensis, by Regel & Schmidt (1880).  Wiehler and Chautems transferred this species to Sinningia in the first (and only) issue of Gesneriana, 1995 [see references].

In this article, they noted that several crosses had been made with (then) Lietzia brasiliensis.

Hybridization with S. brasiliensis

  • Fertile crosses within the Corytholoma clade
    • S. incarnata
    • S. warmingii
    • S. aggregata
  • Additional crosses within the Corytholoma clade which had been made, but which had not flowered or for which the fertility was unknown
    • S. aghensis
    • S. tubiflora
    • S. carangolensis
  • Crosses outside the Corytholoma clade which had been made but had not yet flowered, so fertility could not be measured
    • S. speciosa (Sinningia clade)
    • S. magnifica (Dircaea clade)
    • S. douglasii (Dircaea clade)
    • S. eumorpha (Dircaea clade)
    • S. glazioviana (Dircaea clade)

Hybrid fertility was measured by HPS (hybrid pollen stainability).