Sinningia tubiflora

Robin Attrill
Thu, 22 Aug 2002 14:10:57 PDT
Dear all,
One of the loveliest of summer flowering geophytes, although rather seldom seen, is Sinningia tubiflora. The plant is an altogether subtler subject than most gesneriads, being tuberous with attractive grey-green  hirsute foliage being produced on short stems in early summer. These subsequently elongate to produce 2 to 3 ft racemes of pure white tubular flowers which possess a wonderful scent, and flower, in a cool greenhouse in the UK, throughout August and September. The plants freely reproduce vegetatively by production of further tubers which are kept dry and frost-free when dormant during the winter months. My plants do not set seed but possibly artificial pollination would succeed - I suspect that in the wild Hawk moths (= Sphinx moths) are the pollinators, although hummingbirds or large butterflies may also be possibilities

As mentioned above, the plant is best in a greenhouse in the UK, and a pot is perhaps the best way to grow it even in a more favourable climate as it can make the flowers more accessible, but I would expect it to be a suitable outdoor subject in, for example, California.  Whilst generally placed in Sinningia it has, at times, been placed in other gesneriad genera including Gloxinia, Achimenes etc, and it originates from South America, although the precise origin is a matter of some debate - possibly Sr. Castillo may have the answer to this.

A good illustrated article on the plant, by Brian Mathew, can be found in The New Plantsman, 1994, vol 1 part 4, p236-237.  
Robin Attrill

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