Sinningia insularis

  1. Stem tip preparing to bloom
  2. Hardiness
  3. Feature table
  4. Publication and etymology

Sinningia insularis is an easy-to-grow species with abundant, rather small, reddish-orange flowers.

A distinctive feature of S. insularis is the large shiny red fruits (see picture to the right).  This species self-pollinates readily.

The leaves are very firm and stiff, almost as much so as those of Sinningia macrostachya.  They are usually in whorls of three.  In my yard, this species is tolerant of full sun and occasional drought.  I believe it is one of the easiest sinningia species to grow.


This picture shows the characteristic three-pointed star at the tip of a shoot of this species preparing to bloom.

This appears to be different plant from the one above, since the base of the calyx is green in this one but dark red in the other. The pictures were taken about ten years apart.


For the winter of 2012-2013, I left most of my sinningias out exposed to the elements, in their pots.  Winter rainfall was about normal in its totals, although concentrated most in November and December.  Temperatures were a bit lower than normal.  The coldest nights were around 27 F [-2.5 C].

Most of the sinningias survived the exposure without problems.  Sinningia insularis was a conspicuous exception.  I had three large tubers of it, with their pots placed in different parts of the yard.  Two of the three tubers rotted.

Therefore it appears that this species has tubers that are vulnerable to being cold while wet, more vulnerable than most other species.

Feature table for Sinningia insularis

Plant Description

Growth Determinate
Stems Upright or spreading.
Leaves Green, stiff, in pairs or whorls
Dormancy Stems fully deciduous.  However, new stems can sprout as old ones drop off, so it appears that full dormancy is facultative.


Inflorescence Flowers borne on a platform inflorescence
Season Flowers in summer
Flower Short orange-red, tubular

Horticultural aspects

From seed Three years to bloom, under my conditions; you can probably do better
Hardiness Has survived 28F (-2C) in my yard when kept dry, but see discussion above.
Recommended? You bet.  Flowers are on the small side, but S. insularis is attractive and easy to grow.


Hybrids with this species See listing.


Taxonomic group The douglasii group of the Dircaea clade.
Nectaries Two, small, dorsal, joined or almost so


As Rechsteineria insularis by Hoehne, in 1958.  Chautems transferred it to Sinningia in 1990.

Etymology: from Latin insula ("island").

According to Mauro Peixoto (information on Gesneriphiles), this species comes from Ilha dos Alcatrazes, an island in São Paolo State (Brazil).

As in Spanish, alcatraz in Portuguese means "pelican".  The word has an interesting history, being borrowed into Portuguese from Arabic al-qādūs, in turn borrowed from Greek kados, meaning "jar", apparently in reference to the pelican's big scoop beak.  The English word "albatross" is a corrupted version of "alcatraz". [Weekley, 1921].