Sinningia canescens

  1. In the wild
  2. In the tame
  3. In Mike Kartuz's garden
  4. Sinningia leucotricha
  5. Feature table
  6. Publication and etymology

In the Wild

This is a big chunk of weathered rock in Vila Velha State Park, in Paraná state, Brazil, wherein can be found the reclusive Sinningia canescens.

This park features a lot of interesting geology, mammalian pests called coatis, and (on occasion) gesneriad hunters.  In addition, there are rhipsalid cacti, such as Lepismium cruciforme, which are normally epiphytes, but here can be found growing on steep hillsides.

Vila Velha
Vila Velha

Here is the 1999 GRF expedition (Hans Wiehler is the one in the red and white shirt) straggling past yet another imposing rock formation.

Somewhere around here is the lens cap for my camera, which went missing and could not be located despite diligent searching.  Camera makers: always provide a tether to attach the lens cap to the camera body. [That was 1999, and my last film camera. In 2018, my camera doesn't have a lens cap, much less a tether.]

It won't be far now.  Through this picturesque crevice...

To tell the truth, I don't remember whether the plant was before or after the crevice.  To keep on telling the truth, I was more impressed by the crevice than the plant.  But that was then.

Vila Velha
Sinningia canescens

So here is the shy Sinningia canescens.  Not in bloom (it was Brazil autumn, remember).  But still cheerfully growing on a rock amid ferns and what looks like a gasteria to the right (but can't be because gasterias are south African).

Continuing to be honest, I can't positively assert this is Sinningia canescens.  The long, mostly bare stem to the left gives me pause.  I am going by what was written on the back of the 1999 photograph, but I cannot remember who gave me that identification.  Until such time as I receive a correction from my loyal reader, we'll go with what was on the label.


In the Tame: My plants

The most distinctive feature of this species is the "oyster-shell" leaves on new sprouts from the tuber.  The first leaf pair almost completely encloses the second leaf pair and the flowerbuds.

This picture shows the leaves after they have begun to spread, revealing the flowerbuds.  The densely hairy leaves would make this very popular for its foliage were it not for Sinningia leucotricha, with which it has often been confused.  However, the way the leaves are held when the plant sprouts from the tuber always makes it possible to distinguish adult plants of the two species.

Sinningia canescens
Sinningia canescens


In the Tame: Mike Kartuz's plants

Sinningia canescens

The next two photographs are courtesy of Mike Kartuz.  They show actual flowers, noticeably missing from the above pictures (a shortcoming deftly concealed by witty composition).

This picture shows the hairy-leaved form.  Unlike most forms of S. leucotricha, this plant has more than four leaves on a stem.

One striking feature is the similarity of the flowers to S. macropoda.  Note the spotting on the corolla lobes.  S. canescens and S. macropoda are close relatives, as can be seen in the taxonomical summary of the douglasii group of the dircaea clade.

Sinningia canescens

This is what Mike calls the "green-leaved form", presumably because the hairiness is not as dense.  We note that this plant does have four leaves per stem.

In both plants, we note that the flowers have relatively long pedicels, unlike the short ones of S. leucotricha.

Sinningia leucotricha: What's in a Name?

There was a lot of confusion for a long time between S. canescens and Sinningia leucotricha.  The latter species was grown for many years under the names Rechsteineria canescens and Sinningia canescens.

Sinningia canescens has been much more difficult for me to keep alive.  S. leucotricha is very vigorous, but S. canescens has always struggled under my conditions.  At the moment [written in August 2007, still true in May 2018], I do not have any plants of this species.  My last one failed to come out of dormancy in 2006.

It has crossed my mind that some of the plants in circulation as S. leucotricha or S. canescens might actually be hybrids between the two, especially since I have never seen a plant identified as such a hybrid (which would seem to be an obvious cross to make).

Feature table for Sinningia canescens

Plant Description

Growth Determinate
Leaves Two or three pairs of gray-green leaves with silvery hairs
Dormancy Stem completely deciduous, stumps remain on tuber.


Inflorescence Flowers in terminal cluster.
Season Blooms in spring
Flower orange-red, tubular

Horticultural aspects

From seed Five years to bloom, under my conditions, but that's unlikely to be typical.
Hardiness Survived 30F (-1C) in my yard.
Recommended? I don't know.  Mine were nice, but hard to keep alive: I eventually lost them all.  Take your chances.


Taxonomic group The douglasii group of the Dircaea clade.


As Gesnera canescens, by Martius, in 1829.  Hans Wiehler moved this species to Sinningia in 1975.

Etymology: Latin canescens, gerund (-ing form) of canesco ("grow white or grey").