History of the African Violet: The year 1992 marked the Centenial of the discovery of the African violet (Saintpaulia) by non-Africans. In 1892 Baron Walter von Saint Paul found the purple flowered plants in the Usambara Mountains in what is now known as Tanzania. He sent seeds from the plants to his father in Germany and his father took an interest in the plants. Later, seeds were given to Hermann Wendland of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hanover, Germany. The plants were classified in the Family Gesneriaceae. The plants were given the generic name of saintpaulia in honor of the von Saint Paul family. In 1893 the first commercially produced plants were offered by Friedrich Benary in Erfurt, Germany. The American history of the African violet began in 1926 when Armacost and Royston of West Los Angeles, California imported seeds from Germany and England. Armacost and Royston used the resulting plants to develop ten new hybrid African violets. The original ten selected for release included Blue Boy, Sailor Boy, Admiral, Amethyst, Commodore, Mermaid Neptune, Norseman, Viking, and #32. Since that time African violets have become one of the world's most popular houseplants. Because of the tendency of saintpaulia hybrids to "sport" or mutate, many new characteristics have been introduced to African violet growers. Some of the most important mutations include: girl foliage, variegated foliage, pink blossoms, and double blossoms.
Light Requirements of the African Violet: The African violet (Saintpaulia) is an excellent flowering house plant which will grow and flower under low light intensities found in the average home. Where there is insufficient natural light, they can be grown and flowered successfully entirely under artificial light. Large numbers of different varieties, types and colors available, and the ease with which they can be propagated make this an excellent plant for interior decoration of the home. African violets require about 1000 foot-candles of light for 8 to 12 hours per day for best growth and flowering. However, lower light levels for longer periods of time are also satisfactory. Often, it is possible to tell from their appearance whether light levels are satisfactory. If light is too low, leaves are usually deeper in color and thinner than leaves on plants receiving higher levels of diffused light. Unless light is extremely low, plants may grow well but will flower poorly or not at all. In such instances, supplemental artificial light is helpful in promoting flowering.
African Violet Links:
Dixie African Violet Society - The official WEB site of the Dixie African Violet Society (DAVS), a nonprofit organization, founded in 1956 to afford an association of persons with similar interest in African violets within an area not too vast for occasional meeting. Thirteen states are included in DAVS: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Groups primarily concerned with growing and showing African violets in these states can become affiliate members of DAVS; however, individual membership is open to all persons world wide.
The Gesneriad Reference Web - Gesneriads are among the most interesting and desirable of all horticultural and botanical subjects. The family is highly diverse, distributed throughout the tropics and into the north and south temperate zones, often very beautiful and amenable to both indoor and outdoor cultivation when reasonable conditions are provided. It includes such popular plants as the African Violet (Saintpaulia hybrids), the Gloxinia (Sinningia hybrids) and the Lipstick Plant (Aeschynanthus species), as well as many lesser known genera such as Streptocarpus (Cape Primrose).
American Gloxinia & Gesneriad Society - (pronounced either "jez-NARE-ee-ad" or "guess-NARE-ee-ad") The gesneriad family contains over 2,500 species of plants. Perhaps the best-known member of the gesneriad family is the African Violet. The family was named for Swiss botanist Konrad Gesner. Most gesneriads are from tropical and subtropical regions and are often found growing in humus-filled depressions or rock crevices, on humus-covered forest floors or epiphytically on tree branches. There is a wide variety of plant sizes, shapes, flowers and colors. This is a plant family of great diversity, and many grow under the same conditions we enjoy. Some gesneriads have been hybridized extensively, resulting in hundreds of cultivars that can be quite different from the species. In addition to the African Violet, some of the more common gesneriads grown by hobbyists are the Florist Gloxinia (Sinningia speciosa), Lipstick Plant (Aeschynanthus), Goldfish Plant (Nematanthus), Cape Primrose (Streptocarpus), Flame Violet (Episcia), and Cupid's Bower (Achimenes). Gesneriads provide you with blooming plants of one variety or another throughout the year, an especially welcome sight on a cold winter day. Many of the easiest and most beautiful plants for the home or greenhouse belong to the gesneriad family.