Streptocarpus x hybridus: Cape Primrose

Streptocarpuses are the best known members of the Gesneriaceae family and also the most widely grown. They number some 90 species; most are native to South Africa, some grow in Madagascar, and their range extends even as far as south Asia. The majority are found in light humus and litter from broad-leaf trees, many species on rocks, and some are even epiphytes (such as S. caulescens, S. rexii and S. saxorum).

Generally encountered in cultivation are hybrids which are descended from Streptocarpus rexii from Cape Province. It is a species with fresh green, wrinkled leaves approximately 20 cm (8 in) long and pale blue flowers with petals of unequal size. The stem is very short, as is the case with most species. S. kirkii has a stem of approximately 20 cm (8 in) in height, and is the only exception among cultivated species.

Very attractive and interesting are species with a single leaf which, however, is sometimes extremely large. Examples are: S. dunnii with leaves up to 80 cm (32 in) long and brick-red flowers; S. galpinii from Transvaal with 20-cm (8-in) long leaves and violet flowers; the large S. grandis with leaves 1 m (3 ft) long and up to 70 cm (28 in) across and pale blue flowers measuring only about 2.5 cm (1 in); and the well-known S. wendlandii with leaves 90 cm (35 in) long and about 60 cm (2 ft) across and flowers of the same colour but somewhat larger.

Cultivation is not difficult — the same as for sinningias. Streptocarpus, however, does not form tubers and thus may be wintered in cool or warm conditions, but in the latter case atmospheric moisture must be kept up. Unlike gloxinias, streptocar-pus requires less shaded conditions and more ample ventilation. Propagation is easy — by means of seeds sown on the surface of sterile peat or by leaf cuttings, with stalks inserted in a peat and sand mixture or clean fresh sphagnum moss. The plants are very attractive in small dish arrangements.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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