Sinningia gesneriifolia

A species rediscovered

  1. Seedling
  2. Leaves
  3. Hardiness
  4. Flower
  5. Horticultural aspects
  6. Feature table
  7. External link

The color in the picture is not accurate.  The leaves and flowers should be much less blue.  See picture below for better color accuracy.

tall plant

Sinningia gesneriifolia was published in 1864, so it has been around a long time.  However, it has also been out of cultivation a long time.  Therefore, when the plant was encountered in Rio de Janeiro state of Brazil, it was considered likely to be a new species.

It was given the provisional name of São Fidélis, after the locality where it was found.  It was first characterized as a Paliavana, for two reasons:

  1. The plant did not have a tuber
  2. The flowers were roughly campanulate (bell-shaped)

Any debate about the genus classification was abruptly terminated when the original publication was found.  Sinningia gesneriifolia it is.

This is a tall species.  The plant in the picture is a meter high [about 40 inches].  It gradually drops its lower leaves, and eventually blooms from the upper nodes.  In this respect, it resembles Sinningia reitzii, to which it is not closely related.


This plant was grown from Brazil Plants seed.  Even when very small, the leaf pattern was striking.  The plant in the picture is about 5 cm [2 in] tall.

Some varieties of Sinningia reitzii have a dramatically patterned leaf when young, but lose the light center stripe as they age.  It appears that this new species might have the same behavior.  The plant also has another characteristic shared with Sinningia reitzii, namely dropping the lower leaves as the stem grows.



The patterning on the leaves disappears as the stem ages.  However, if the plant is cut back, the leaves on new stems can show the same patterns as seedlings.

This photograph picture was taken at the beginning of June 2013, about three months after the previous picture.  The pot is five inches (about 13 cm) in diameter.

This shows the maroon color of the leafback, another similarity to a young Sinningia reitzii.

Note that this plant is not close to Sinningia reitzii in the sinningia alliance.  The resemblance is due to convergent evolution acting on similar resources.  This species does not appear to have a tuber.

Here is a closeup of the leafback, with part of the midrib, one main lateral vein, and a bunch of shiny dots, the nature of which I would know if I knew more botany.



The winter of 2014 was rather cold in northern California.  That's when it was discovered that this plant could not tolerate 28 F [-2 C]. The picture at the left shows the result.  This plant did not recover from the damage.

However, another plant which died back to the base did revive in the spring.  It is interesting to note that the new leaves had the juvenile striping that the mature plant had lost.  See picture to the right.



The corolla has dark purple spots deep in the throat.  The flower does not seem robust enough for bat pollination.  Perhaps the spots attract some sort of bee or fly.  The flower does not have any scent that I can detect.

The spreading calyx lobes are reminiscent of those of Sinningia speciosa.


The flower is heavily spotted on the outside as well.

As can be seen from the bud, the calyx lobes do not enclose the developing corolla.

This picture is much closer to the true flower color than the one above, which is too blue and too dark.

trunk branching


As mentioned above, this species grows tall. To keep it more compact, pinching has been tried, with varying degrees of success.

This picture shows the tall plant's one branch point, which resulted from clipping the stem when the plant was relatively short.  The plant has not branched on its own.



At the 2015 Gesneriad Society convention, Mauro Peixoto mentioned that his plants of this species seem to have a short lifespan.  The plants would die in winter without any apparent cause.

This accords with my experience.  Three of my five outdoor plants died in the winter of 2014-2015, and two of them had not yet bloomed.  Above, I attributed the losses to cold, but since not all the plants died, and the ones which survived weren't in the most sheltered positions, it may be that the plants are just short-lived for reasons we don't understand.

Therefore the grower is well-advised to harvest seeds when possible, and to take cuttings.  Of course, this is good policy with any favorite plant, but even more so with this apparently finicky species.

Feature table for Sinningia gesneriifolia

Plant Description

Growth Indeterminate
Habit Upright stem(s).  My largest plant was 89 cm [35 inches] tall in September 2015.
Leaves Green with white stripe when young. Leafback maroon.
Dormancy Plant does not have a tuber.  See for discussion.


Inflorescence axillary cyme of 1-4 flowers, no peduncle
Flowering Autumn
Flower Bell-shaped, white, spotted purple

Horticultural aspects

From seed To flowerbuds, 2 years, but this included the winter setback described above.
Hardiness Somewhat tender, see above
Recommended? Definitely, if one has the room.  It is attractive when less than 30 cm [12 inches] tall.  I suggest pinching, in hopes of keeping it compact.  So far, culture seems easy, but see the longevity section.


Taxonomic group Sinningia clade
Pollination The spotting in the corolla suggests bat or fly pollination. Fly-pollinated flowers usually smell bad, but the flowers of this species have no aroma. Bat-pollinated flowers are usually bigger and sturdier. In my back yard, the flowers either self or get pollinated, and set seed.
Nectaries Five separate, which gradually get obscured by the expanding fruit.

External Link

Mauro's Brazil Plants web site has a page.

Mike Kartuz offers this plant.  See this page for pictures.


Hanstein (1822-1880) originally published this species in 1864 as Ligeria gesneriifolia (Fl. Bras. 8(1): 389, t. 59, f. 27 1864).  It was moved to Sinningia by Clayberg in 1968 (Baileya 16(1): 7–8 1968).