The "Other" Gesneriads
Whatever is a gesneriad? Almost all individual plants belong to larger plant families. In the case of the African violet whose botanical name is Saintpaulia the larger family is the “Gesneriads” or Gesneriaceae in botanical Latin. Sometimes the relationship is made obvious by readily apparent similarities in the plant. For example, yes, the Florist’s Gloxinia (properly called Sinningia speciosa) is also a gesneriad and bears a substantial outward resemblance to the African violet. There are many more and this outward resemblance is often not nearly so obvious.
The whole gesneriad family has a big following among amateur and commercial growers. There are local plant societies devoted entirely to growing of the family and many African violet societies include gesneriads in their programs and shows. A large society in the United States with members world-wide is devoted entirely to promotion and study of the family. This society is called The Gesneriad Society. (It was formerly known as the American Gloxinia and Gesneriad Society.) We present a brief introduction to gesneriads here, but, if you are interested in more detail and photos, visit their web site at http://www.gesneriadsociety.org/. The Gesneriad Society is holding its annual Convention and Show in Toronto this year, July 2-6, 2013. The host city in 2012 was Seattle and Philadelphia had the honour in 2011.
The gesneriad family is very large covering many genera and species and we do not have space for a detailed description of all. They hail from many environments around the world, but most are tropical or semi-tropical. Please follow the links below to their special web pages for an introduction to and photos of some of these plants grouped by root-type.
Fibrous-rooted (These have conventional roots like most other plants.)
Rhizomatous (These have rhizomes, really modified stems rather than true roots.)
Tuberous (These have tubers much like a potato or some begonias.)