Sinningia calcaria has an interesting habit, with short stems bearing 1-4 leaves and a cluster of orange or red flowers.
The picture at the right shows Katherine Henwood's plant of S. calcaria, photographed in San Francisco in October 2008. In 2007, she won Best in Show at the San Francisco Gesneriad Society show for a different plant of the same species.
Sinningia calcaria usually has one or two pairs of leaves on a thin stalk. Sometimes only one of the leaves develops, so that it resembles S. helioana. It can even flower in this form. The most obvious difference between the two species (which are not closely related) in that case is that the flowers (if you can get them) come from the leaf axil in S. calcaria and from a peduncle coming directly from the tuber in the case of S. helioana.
This is terrible photography, but it does show this species in habitat, growing on a sheer rock face. I took this picture on the Gesneriad Research Foundation expedition to Brazil in 1999. The plant has four leaves, which my plants, even blooming ones, often do not get.
Behind me, as I was moving in to get this picture, was a large wasp nest that Mauro Peixoto just managed to keep me from bumping. That would have made the expedition a lot more memorable than it needed to be.
This picture shows a peloric flower of a plant of S. calcaria. The picture does not show it, but the flower had five stamens (five filaments and five anthers), unlike the normal four for sinningias. The rest of the flowers on this plant were not peloric.
The color of the flower was actually more orange than this shows. Fiddling with the brightness, in order to bring out the flower, had an unfortunate effect on color accuracy.
This plant illustrates the benefits and hazards of growing sinningias outdoors. My indoor plants of Sinningia calcaria are smaller, usually with only one pair of leaves, but they bloom, although with only a few flowers. This outdoor plant has two pairs of large leaves and initiated plenty of flowerbuds. I anticipated a good photo for this site, with lots of flowers. However, something got into the buds and ate out the centers, so that not one developed.
Oh well, maybe next year.
I still have a tuber of Sinningia calcaria. It is firm and apparently alive, but it has been a couple of years since it showed any shoots. Thus, Sinningia calcaria joins S. hirsuta in the group of species that can develop zombie tubers.
The above picture, from Karyn Cichocki, shows fruits of this species, adorned with droplets of nectar. Kinda look like eyes, don't they?
It's too soon to tell about most of these potential fruits, but the one just below and to the left of the center of the picture, with the shriveled style, is clearly going to produce seed. The beak of the fruit is already fattening up.
The nectar is still around even after the corolla has dropped because, it appears, there are no hummingbirds in Karyn's house to sip it. Note where the beads of nectar appear: only in the two upper junctions between the calyx lobes, which corresponds to the position of the two nectaries in the picture of S. 'Texas Zebra'.
See a comparison between the shoots of S. leopoldii and this species.
I have crossed this species with Sinningia reitzii. The resulting plants have dusky red flowers and dark green leaves with reddish leafbacks. The habit is indeterminate, as one would expect from determinate x indeterminate in sinningia, so that the plants resemble the reitzii parent more than the calcaria parent.
|Habit||An odd plant with a stem which can seem like an extension of the petiole(s).|
|Leaves||One-four. Usually asymmetrical. Dark green on top, tinged with red on reverse|
|Dormancy||Stems are deciduous, but new ones often sprout as the older ones die back.|
|Inflorescence||Flowers in terminal cluster.|
|Season||Blooms when it's in the mood|
|Flower||Tubular, orange. The shape and dusky orange color are reminiscent of Gesneria cuneifolia flowers.|
|Calyx||Calyx lobes, joined only at base, clasp base of corolla. Corolla is at about 120-degree angle to pedicel, which is usually curved near its far end.|
|From seed||18 months to bloom, under my conditions|
|Hardiness||Has survived 30 F (-1 C) in my back yard, without any leaf damage|
|Recommended?||Yes, if you're a better grower than I am. It is picturesque in bloom. On the other hand, tubers do not have a good record for coming out of dormancy.|
|Taxonomic group||The douglasii group of the Dircaea clade.|
See Ron Myhr's gesneriad reference web for a picture. It is not clear how many leaves this plant has, but the color and texture closely match those of my plants, much more so than another picture on the same site. The latter plant, with markings on the outside of a yellow corolla tube, seems rather strange for S. calcaria.
Dusén ex Malme [that means Dusén based on unpublished information from Malme] 1937, as Corytholoma calcarium. Chautems transferred it to Sinningia in 1990.