This week the Gesneriad Society will host their National Convention in Omaha. What is a Gesneriad? Well if you have ever grown the lipstick vine, guppy plant, florist gloxinia, flame violet or Cape primrose you have grown a Gesneriad. Oh, yeah – ever grown an African violet – they are one too. Gesneriaceae is a family of plants with over 150 genera and more than 3,200 species. Cousins of the Gesneriad family include foxglove, lavender monkey flower, snapdragons, and even the catalpa tree. Gesneriads are found around the world from Africa, Central America, Southeast Asia in tropical, subtropical and alpine environments and in many homes across the world.
The main photo of this blog and the plant to the right is a plant that belongs in the genus Petrocosmea. This is a small group of plants that grow similar to African violets. They do flower, but often collectors will remove them because they disrupt the symmetry and leaf pattern that make them a much sought after plant. They do well indoors and enjoy cooler environments. In nature they can be found growing on mossy rocks in high altitude cloud forests.
Streptocarpus is a large genus of plants found in Southern Africa. They are a larger plant that like African violets do very well indoors under grow lights. The plant produces leaves and flowers grow from the base of each leaf with four to six flower buds. They have been hybridized for fantastic colors and some even have scent. They are a fun plant to try but make sure that you give them space because each leaf can easily reach 18″-24″ in length.
And lastly it is hard not to talk about Gesneriads without mentioning the African violet. This plant has consistently been one of America’s top selling houseplant throughout time. Easily grown indoors and forgiving of some abuse. There are over 18,500 named cultivars of African violets that stemmed from about 6 species and numerous clones.
If you want to see some amazing plants join the Gesneriad Society Saturday July 8th from 8:30 to 3 pm at the Hilton Omaha (1001 Cass St) for their flower show and sale. It is open to the public and admission is free.