Sinningia calcaria

Sinningia calcaria has an interesting habit, with short stems bearing 1-4 leaves and a cluster of orange or red flowers.

  1. S. calcaria in habitat
  2. Peloric flower
  3. Perils of growing outdoors
  4. Fruits
  5. Compared to Sinningia leopoldii
  6. Hybridization
  7. Feature table
  8. Publication

The picture at the right shows Katherine Henwood's plant of S. calcaria, photographed in San Francisco in October 2008.  In 2007, she won Best in Show at the San Francisco Gesneriad Society show for a different plant of the same species.

Sinningia calcaria usually has one or two pairs of leaves on a thin stalk.  Sometimes only one of the leaves develops, so that it resembles S. helioana.  It can even flower in this form.  The most obvious difference between the two species (which are not closely related) in that case is that S. calcaria bears its flowers from leaf axils, while S. helioana bears its flowers on a peduncle-like stem originating directly from the tuber.


Sinningia calcaria

Sinningia calcaria in habitat

This is terrible photography, but it does show this species in habitat, growing on a sheer rock face.  I took this picture with a film camera on the Gesneriad Research Foundation expedition to Brazil in 1999.  The plant has four leaves, which my plants, even blooming ones, often do not get.

Behind me, as I was moving in to get this picture, was a large wasp nest that Mauro Peixoto just managed to keep me from bumping.  That would have made the expedition a lot more memorable than it needed to be.


Peloric flower

This picture shows a peloric flower of a plant of S. calcaria.  The picture does not show it, but the flower had five stamens (five filaments and five anthers), unlike the normal four for sinningias.  The rest of the flowers on this plant were not peloric.

The color of the flower was actually more orange than this shows.  Fiddling with the brightness, in order to bring out the flower, had an unfortunate effect on color accuracy.



This plant illustrates the benefits and hazards of growing sinningias outdoors.  My indoor plants of Sinningia calcaria are smaller, usually with only one pair of leaves, but they bloom, although with only a few flowers.  This outdoor plant has two pairs of large leaves and initiated plenty of flowerbuds.  I anticipated a good photo for this site, with lots of flowers.  However, something (probably a caterpillar) got into the buds and ate out the centers, so that not one developed.


This is Katherine Henwood's plant in September 2009.


Extraterrestrial fruits

This picture, from Karyn Cichocki, shows fruits of this species, adorned with droplets of nectar.  Kinda look like eyes, don't they?

Among the potential fruits, the one just below and to the left of the center of the picture, with the shriveled style, was clearly going to produce seed.  The beak of the fruit was already fattening up.

Note where the beads of nectar appear: only in the two upper junctions between the calyx lobes, which corresponds to the position of the two nectaries in the picture of S. 'Texas Zebra'.

Comparison to S. leopoldii

See a comparison between the shoots of S. leopoldii and this species.



I have crossed this species with Sinningia reitzii.  The resulting plants have dusky red flowers and dark green leaves with reddish leafbacks.  The habit is indeterminate, as one would expect from determinate x indeterminate in sinningia, so that the plants resemble the reitzii parent more than the calcaria parent.

Feature table for Sinningia calcaria

Plant Description

Growth Determinate
Habit An odd plant with a stem which can seem like an extension of the petiole(s).
Leaves One-four.  Usually asymmetrical.  Dark green on top, tinged with red on reverse
Dormancy Stems are deciduous, but new ones often sprout as the older ones die back.


Inflorescence Flowers in terminal cluster.
Season Blooms when it's in the mood
Flower Tubular, orange.  The shape and dusky orange color are reminiscent of Gesneria cuneifolia flowers.
Calyx Calyx lobes, joined only at base, clasp base of corolla.  Corolla is at about 120-degree angle to pedicel, which is usually curved near its far end.

Horticultural aspects

From seed 18 months to bloom, under my conditions
Hardiness Has survived 30 F (-1 C) in my back yard, without any leaf damage
Recommended? Yes, if you're a better grower than I am.  It is picturesque in bloom.  On the other hand, tubers do not have a good record for coming out of dormancy.


Taxonomic group The douglasii group of the Dircaea clade.


Dusén ex Malme [that means Dusén based on unpublished information from Malme] 1937, as Corytholoma calcarium.  Chautems transferred it to Sinningia in 1990.