Sinningia sp. "Black Hill" was grown from seed collected near Morro Preto in Brazil (Morro Preto means "black hill" in Portuguese). At first it was believed to be a variety of S. reitzii. When the differences were recognized, it was given the holding name of S. aff. reitzii. I use the name "Black Hill" to avoid prejudging its relationships and to avoid confusing this plant with the real S. reitzii (the "aff." often gets dropped on plant labels).
I don't believe it is obvious this is a new species. It shares many properties with S. reitzii, and differs from that species in a few important respects, but I'm not a professional botanist who would know how many differences were enough. All I believe is that it is worth having a name to describe this population of individuals, which differs in predictable ways from the standard population of S. reitzii.
Evidence from the DNA suggests that S. "Black Hill" is distinct from S. reitzii, but its exact affiliations will take further testing to determine.
Note the pedicel for the flower at top center. A second flowerbud also emerges from the same axil. Both pedicels originate in the axil. There is no peduncle. Sinningia reitzii has multiple flowers per axil, with an inflorescence that starts with a peduncle usually at least an inch [2.5 cm] long.
The following table shows the similarities and differences between
S. reitzii and S. sp. "Black Hill".
|S. sp. "Black Hill"||S. reitzii|
|Growth habit||Erect perennial stem with indeterminate growth. Stubs of previous years' stems remain attached to the tuber.||Erect perennial stem with indeterminate growth. Stubs of previous years' stems remain attached to the tuber.|
|Tuber||Tuber is multi-lobed, with runners and satellite tubers (see a picture)||Single multi-lobed tuber (see a picture)|
|Inflorescence||1-2 (rarely 3) flowers per axil, no peduncle||Several flowers per axil, peduncle 2-3 cm [one inch] long|
|Flower shape||Tubular, sometimes compressed vertically, so tube is wider than high||Tubular, sometimes compressed laterally, so tube is higher than wide|
|Flower color||Magenta||Usually red|
|Leaves||Glossy appearance, red midrib||Matte appearance|
|Seedling leaves||Resemble adult leaves, but with a silvery sheen. Darker, with maroon backs.||Red backs, upper surface almost black, with white herringbone stripe.|
S. "Black Hill" in habitat
This picture was taken at the entrance to Morro Preto cave in April 1999. For clumsy photographers like me, a digital camera is a great advantage, but this was before I had one, so the flower is not quite in focus (no, it's not your eyes). Even so, one can note the single flower per axil and its magenta color, two things I have never observed in the true S. reitzii.
The seed that yielded the plants I call "Black Hill" was not collected here, however. There were large signs in several languages warning that collecting of any kind was illegal, so I didn't do any. Later that same day, there was an opportunity to gather some seed beside a road, but the plants seemed to be the same as the ones we had seen near the cave. The picture shows a flower from one of the seedlings, in cultivation in Californnia.
"Morro Preto" would have been an inaccurate name for the plants, because that's not where the seed was from. Nonetheless, "Black Hill" seemed like a useful mnemonic. It's certainly a lot closer to the mark than Sinningia "New Zealand", the holding name for the plant which turned out to be S. reitzii!
(An additional issue is that Morro Preto is pronounced something like Mo-hoo Pret-too, which is not going to roll easily off English-speaking tongues.)
|Habit||Upright perennial stem|
|Leaves||Dark green tinged purple. Lustrous. Reverse maroon or red-tinged, depending on light. Seedlings have silvery sheen when young.|
|Dormancy||Stem perennial, does not die back to tuber|
|Season||Blooms in summer to early autumn|
|Flower||Magenta, tubular. Inflorescence not pedunculate. See a comparison with other sinningia flowers.|
|Hardiness||Has survived 30F (-1C) in my yard|
|Recommended?||Yes, for its foliage. The flowers are neither abundant nor striking.|
|Hybridizing||Can provide good foliage and flower color to hybrids; see S. 'Distant Lights', the hybrid with S. leopoldii. Jim Steuerlein has crossed it with S. bullata, and Jon Dixon crossed it with S. gigantifolia.|