Sinningia elatior

  1. In habitat
  2. Under lights
  3. Feature table
  4. External link
  5. Publication and etymology

This species has one of the widest ranges in the Sinningia alliance, second only to S. incarnata.  According to the (unfortunately defunct) Gesneriad Checklist, it is found in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela, in addition to many of the Atlantic-coast states of Brazil.

A table compares the two species.


Apparently, plain red with no other markings is good enough in the meadow.  On the other hand, the flower may produce copious nectar, as indicated by the paired bulges at the base of the flower.  These could also be to protect the nectar from evaporation, if this plant grows in a hotter situation than most sinningias.

(This is pure speculation on my part -- not based on any facts!)

Sinningia elatior is one of the "meadow" species, growing in clumps with very little shade.  In habit, it resembles S. curtiflora, S. allagophylla, and S. sceptrum.

This picture shows the growing shoot of S. elatior in the spring [in this case, May 2010].  The three-fold symmetry of the leaf arrangement is easy to see.  The leaves are tightly packed until the stem begins to extend in preparation for blooming.

One interesting feature is the stiffness of the fruit pedicels.  After a flower has set seed, its stalk becomes quite rigid.  The flowers of S. curtiflora, by contrast, have almost no pedicel, being pretty much sessile, i.e., flush against the stem.  In both cases, it would seem that the fruit is being protected again being broken off by... rain? wind? animals?


In Habitat

This picture, taken in Brazil in April 1999, shows a roadside where we saw Sinningia curtiflora (in seed) and Sinningia elatior (in bloom).  They are not obvious, but they are there.  We move in a little closer.

This picture shows a few plants of Sinningia elatior.  They can be recognized by their mostly upright reddish stems bearing barely distinguishable flowers at the top.

Here are the flowers.  They have very short pedicels attached in clusters at the nodes of the dark red wiry stem.

Since this was Brazilian autumn, and since there are still several nodes worth of blooms yet to open, one can surmise that this species blooms late into autumn in its habitat.  We didn't see any hummingbirds during our stop here, but the presence of two sinningia species with tubular red flowers and the abundance of Sinningia curtiflora seed strongly suggested that there were hummingbirds nearby.

Reproductive isolation

It is also worth noting that the two species were in bloom at different times of year.  Sinningia curtiflora and Sinningia elatior are rather closely related, so they could easily hybridize if they bloomed at the same time.  Separation of blooming periods is therefore a strategy to avoid hybridization.


Under Lights

Why it's not a good idea to grow Sinningia elatior under lights.

This plant has a 54-cm [21-inch] stem.  Grown outdoors, this species eventually develops a reasonably sturdy upright stem.

Feature table for Sinningia elatior

Plant Description

Growth Indeterminate
Habit Tall plant with unbranched stems
Leaves Leaves have a texture something like that of S. allagophylla leaves, but are shorter. The leaves are usually arranged in whorls of three.
Dormancy Stem fully deciduous


Inflorescence extended axis
Season Late summer
Flower Red, tubular, with short galea-like hood

Horticultural Aspects

Hardiness Has survived 30 F [-1 C] in my back yard.
From seed 25 months to bloom, under my conditions
Recommended? Oh, probably not.  At this time, I cannot see anything special about the flowers or the foliage or the plant habit.  This (2008) is the first year it has bloomed for me; my assessment might change if it gets more floriferous with age. [2010: it hasn't.]


Hybrids with this species See listing.


Taxonomic group The core group of the Corytholoma clade.

External Link

Mauro Peixoto's Brazil Plants site has a page for the standard form and another for a yellow-flowered form of this species.


Kunth, 1818 (as Gesneria elatior).

Etymology: Latin elatior ("higher, best").  Another example of botanical hyperbole (see S. magnifica).