Sinningia lineata

Sinningia lineata is an attractive, easy-to-grow species with orange-red flowers atop (usually) one or two pairs of large leaves per stem.  The flowers are spotted.  The amount of spotting depends on the clone.  The tuber can get very large with age, both in cultivation and in the wild.

  1. Name (vs. S. macropoda)
  2. Photograph: 2003
  3. Photograph: 17 years later
  4. "Highly spotted clone"
  5. S. lineata in Brazil
  6. Timing from seed to bloom
  7. My lineata story
  8. Pests
  9. Feature table
  10. Publication
  11. Etymology

The name of the species comes from the dark streaks on the stems, petioles, and flowerstalks, as can be seen in a picture of a flowerstalk.


At the time of the 1988 Sinningia Register, there was a lot of confusion between this species and S. macropoda.  The Register considered S. lineata to be a synonym of S. macropoda, but in the 1990s it was determined that in fact the names represented distinct species.  Most of the plants grown under the name S. macropoda in the 1970s and 1980s were in fact S. lineataSinningia macropoda is not nearly as common in cultivation as S. lineata.



The 1976 plant in 2003.

I started S. macropoda seed from the AGGS Seed Fund around 1976, but the plant I got was S. lineata.

The picture to the left shows the plant in 2003.  It had one main stem with four leaves.

Each leaf exil bore an inflorescence.

Leaves from a secondary stem bearing two inflorescences can be seen at the right.

There is also a picture of its tuber.


The 1976 plant in 2020.

As of May 2020, the plant is still flourishing.  It blooms well every year, but it has long since ceased to be tidy, with multiple uncoordinated stems and a very gnarly tuber.

It is my oldest sinningia.

Its primary blooming period is in the spring (this picture was taken at the end of April), but it has one or more subsequent blooming spurts later in the year, with fewer flowers.

This plant is one of the parents of Sinningia 'Peninsula Belle'.


"Highly Spotted Clone"

A Highly Spotted Clone plant in 2020.

Jon Dixon got seed from the AGGS seed fund a number of years ago under the name "highly spotted clone".  This seed yielded a number of lineata-like plants, with a variety of spotting in the flowers.

The plant in this picture was grown from Gesneriad Society Seed Fund seed, sowed in 2008.  The seed could have been from the same source as Jon's, or from Jon's plant.

Unlike the 1976 plant, this one's peduncles are not sturdy enough to bear the weight of the flowers, so they hang down rather than more or less horizontally.

Also, the 12-year-old tuber is a tidy bagel shape instead of the gnarly disorganized one of the 1976 plant.  These differences in physical properties suggest that the two plants are from separate collections of the species or even the product of a little hybridization, perhaps the sort of unwanted hummingbird-driven crossing that I get in my yard.


Normal clone flower.

Spotted clone flower.

Spotted clone flower.

These pictures show flowers from three different plants.

The one at the left is the 1976 plant.  It has a little spotting at the junctions of the four bottom lobes, but none between the upper two lobes and none in the interiors of any of the lobes.

The middle picture is from the 2008 plant.  It shows scattered spotting on the faces of all five lobes, not just at the boundaries.  The pattern of dots does not look regular, neither within a lobe nor between opposite or adjacent lobes.

The right-hand picture shows one of Jon's plant. It has the most spotting.  Here the markings do show some regularity, as if lined up in rows radiating from the center.

The flowers of these three plants differ in the shape of their lobes.  On the other hand, within each flower, lobe shape is very similar -- the flowers are almost radially symmetric, at least in the face of the corolla. See the discussion of floral symmetries for more information.

In Brazil

In 1999, the GRF expedition saw S. lineata growing in muddy ground beside a creek.  It was Brazil autumn, and the foliage was very tattered.  Some of the tubers were already dormant.  They were easily the biggest tubers we saw in Brazil on that trip, up to 12 inches [30 cm] in diameter.

From Seed

This is one of those species which takes quite a while to reach maturity.  If you sow seeds, you must be prepared to be patient in waiting for the first bloom.

In hybridization, however, this slowness can be negated by appropriate choice of mate.  S. 'Peninsula Belle' is S. lineata x reitzii.  When I selfed this hybrid, the resulting F2 plants took several years to bloom.  When I crossed S. 'Peninsula Belle' with S. conspicua, on the other hand, the hybrids bloomed about a year after germination.  Crosses with S. 'Texas Zebra' bloomed less than a year after germination.

It appears that the rapid maturity of (for example) S. conspicua and (in 'Texas Zebra') S. eumorpha trumps the slowness of S. lineata.

Time from seed may also have to do with culture.  S. piresiana has been another slow bloomer from seed for me, but two plants obtained from crossing it with S. 'Peninsula Belle' bloomed within 16 months.

My lineata story

This is the place where I tell one of my favorite stories.

In 1984, the annual convention of the American Gloxinia and Gesneriad Society was held in northern California, in San Mateo, a city about 15 miles south of San Francisco.  I had never attended a convention before, much less entered a plant in a convention show.  But this particular year, my youthful plant of Sinningia lineata put on a spectacular display.  Usually, it is through blooming by the middle of June, but this year it peaked right at convention time.

I had dreams of grandeur as I brought it to the entries table.  It was loaded with flowers.  It had perfect leaves.  Who knew how high it could go?

And then I saw the killer: a gorgeous Sinningia leucotricha with multiple stems, spectacular leaves, and dozens of flowers.  When culture and condition are the same, it comes down to genes vs. genes, and face it, Sinningia leucotricha has better genes.

Long story short: it got 98 points, mine got 97.  My wonderful plant didn't even get a blue ribbon.

But here's the deal.

That leucotricha went on to take Best in Show.  Losing out to the Best in Show, well, worse things can happen.

But most important, I got a priceless gift.  That was 1984.  This plant had never before looked as good, nor has it ever done so in all the years since then.  I was able to show it to an international membership at its lifetime peak.

And now, every spring, when I look at that plant blooming, I am reminded of Tom Polka, the exhibitor of the splendid leucotricha, a fine person and perhaps the San Francisco chapter's best grower, who died over 20 years ago.

I learned a lot from that 1984 convention.


The plant does have one difficulty in my environment: caterpillars.  Because it is outdoors and blooms early in spring and has plain green leaves (which appear to appeal best to the moths around here), it is particularly vulnerable.  I have to be vigilant, watching the apical buds for signs of the pests.  The primary symptom is leaves dwarfed and curled over to conceal the developing vermin.

Feature table for Sinningia lineata

Plant Description

Growth Determinate
Habit 2-3 leaf pairs
Leaves Large, green
Dormancy Stems fully deciduous.  Dormancy is obligate.


Inflorescence terminal peduncle
Season Blooms in spring
Flower Orange-red, tubular

Horticultural aspects

From seed I no longer have records for the first bloom of my plant, seed sown 1977.  However, hybrids between this plant and others are very slow to bloom; see discussion
Hardiness Has survived 25F (-4C) in my yard
Recommended? Yes.  The tuber gets larger and larger and larger...


Hybrids with this species See listing.


Taxonomic group The lineata group of the Dircaea clade.
Nectaries Two, dorsal, joined or nearly so


Does anybody know why botanical citations insist on abbreviating people's names?  Anyway, Rechsteineria lineata was published by "Hjelm." in 1937.  The Plant-Book by Mabberley gives a "Hjelmq." as Karl Jesper Hakon Hjelmquist (b. 1905), which is in the right time range.  Alain Chautems transferred this species to Sinningia in 1990.

(The International Plant Name Index confirms that Hjelm. is the same as Hjelmq. which is the above-mentioned Karl Jesper fellow.)


Etymology: Latin lineata ("lined"), from the streaks on the stems and flowerstalks.