kohleria hirsuta

bumble_bee(5b Montreal)November 28, 2004

What color is a kohleria hirsuta supposed to be? I look at pictures on the web and see some with green leaves and some with very dark leaves (like mine).

Here are a couple of green ones:



and a couple of dark ones:



Anyone knows for sure?

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bumble_bee(5b Montreal)

I think I found the answer. The Gesneriad Reference Web has 2 pictures and mentions 2 collections, one darker then the other. Both pictures look green to me but that's probably not the case. I was confused because the person who just sold it to me said it was not a real hirsuta because it was dark, not green. Anyway, I also got rhizomes from someone else. I hope they'll turn out to be the other kind as it would be nice to have both.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2004 at 6:33PM
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jon_d(Northern Calif.)

Hi, it is interesting to see how an old variety like hirsuta can get confused over the years. This often happens with gesneriads. As they get passed around and grown on and passed around again, the wrong names get put on plants, and the mistakes take decades to correct. Often as not, those who know the right varieties from the wrong, die or move on to other pastures before the corrections are ever made. This is particularly so with hybrids. Institutions like the Smithsonian are very good at straightening out the species.

The first two sites look like they have the correct hirsutas. Pats Pets has a very impressive collection of photos. They all look right to me, as far as I know. The second site, Gesneriad Reference Web, shows a particular collection of hirsuta from the Smithsonian, that is a good form to grow, as it is shorter than older clones.

The plant in the photo from "community webshots" is not hirsuta but instead is a rooted flowering tip cutting of K. 'Dark Velvet' a fine windowsill variety. It makes tall stems that in bright light will be everblooming as they grow taller. (up to five feet, but, can be kept shorter by rooting tips and cutting back or pinching.) It is a hybrid of the larger flowered K. eriantha and a natural variety of uncertain background called K. 'Trinidad'.

The last site, bloomlovers, also has 'Dark Velvet' in the photo under hirsuta. They also have the wrong variety labeled 'Clown Prince'. The photo shows a fine spotted pink variety while Clown Prince has larger spots. Their description of 'Beltane' and 'Lono' also sounds like they are mixed--one is the other. But, without photos I can't say for sure.

I have found that 'Dark Velvet' is often confused with this species as well as with 'Trinidad'. Both hirsuta and tubiflora have small flowers on large plants. They are fun to grow, but do not make the big flowers of the hybrids or of species like amabilis, eriantha, allenii, rugata, etc. Instead they grow into large plants with many stems full of small flowers. I have seen very impressive specimens that grew to six or seven feet tall, though they are usually grown much shorter.


    Bookmark   November 28, 2004 at 6:58PM
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bumble_bee(5b Montreal)

Thank you. I'm glad I asked! Mine looks just like the one in the webshot album except mine is a smaller tip cutting, not in bloom yet. A 'Dark Velvet', I now understand. I'll change the label. I had no idea it would get that big but I like the leaf color.
I'm still new to gesneriads and I find it difficult to get the right information and in fact it's hard to simply find plants.
I went to the Botanical Gardens and took out a pile of Gloxinian back issues. That's very interesting but it's not the same as knowing someone who is really helpful and knowledgeable.
We're lucky to have people like Jon on the web!

    Bookmark   November 28, 2004 at 8:03PM
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Oh my goodness--- I got 'Dark Velvet' not too long ago, but I had no idea they'd get so large (mine's blooming at just shy of 8"). It would make a gorgeous floor plant. I think I'll dig out a bigger pot!
We're lucky to have people like Jon, and people like you, Bumble_bee, who ask questions that wind up helping educate the rest of us!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2004 at 9:07AM
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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

Kohleria hirsuta is a wide-ranging and extremely variable species. There are several different collections in cultivation, which unfortunately are generally grown under the species name without any cultivar names or accession numbers to differentiate them. One dark-leafed collection, originally from Trinidad, was distributed as K. hirsuta 'Trinidad' back in the 1960s or 1970s but is probably a natural hybrid involving K. hirsuta and K. tubiflora (and was one parent of 'Dark Velvet'). This one may still be in cultivation but is probably grown as the species (i.e., without a cultivar name). A similar but more recent collection from French Guiana also has dark leaves. An even more recent collection from Ecuador has bright green leaves. And these are only the ones I know about; there may be more floating around out there.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2004 at 5:34PM
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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

BTW Jon, I agree that the webshots photo is 'Dark Velvet' but I think the photos on the "bloomlovers" page may actually be one of the dark-leafed forms of K. hirsuta (e.g., the French Guiana collection, or maybe even 'Trinidad'). The pattern of speckling on the limb is quite different between the two photos, and the bloomlovers plant does not have the bright green stems that are characteristic of 'Dark Velvet'.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2004 at 5:48PM
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jon_d(Northern Calif.)

Hi John, I just went back and looked at the bloomlovers page and you are right and I am wrong. It isn't 'Dark Velvet', which I am not growing right now (I actually managed to lose it). In fact it looks just like my old plant which is in bloom now, which I ID'd as 'Trinidad' (I thought I gave you a cutting of this one??). Anyway, my plant dates back to the late 70's or early 80's when a club member first got it. He gave it to me, in the 80's and while I lost its name, I remember that he had 'Trinidad' back then. So, I am pretty sure this is it. (I put pollen from allenii on it--that should make an "interesting" cross). I had to hike all the way to the living room to ID this photo. BTW, I had forgotten about the bright green color of the stems on 'Dark Velvet'.

Thanks for the correction, Jon

    Bookmark   November 29, 2004 at 10:19PM
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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

Jon, I still have the plant you gave me. It seems to be one of the dark-leafed variants of K. hirsuta, but I can't confirm that it is actually 'Trinidad' as I have never grown that plant, and have only seen black-and-white photos and pressed herbarium specimens. It MIGHT be, and if you have been growing it for that long it probably is, but I wish I could say for sure.

There are also plants cultivated (or escaped from cultivation) on various Caribbean islands (Grenada, Jamaica, Bermuda) and Brazil ('Brazil Gem') that seem to be hybrids involving K. hirsuta, and some of them have come into cultivation recently. Many of these have dark leaves (especially 'Grenada', which seems to be very similar to 'Trinidad' which makes sense given the proximity of these islands to each other), although not as dark as those of 'Dark Velvet' (which still has the darkest leaves of any kohleria I've grown).

    Bookmark   November 30, 2004 at 10:10AM
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jon_d(Northern Calif.)

Hi John, you brought up an interesting subject--those darn Caribbean kohlerias. Just what the heck are they? hybrids or species or what? I have a few of them--I lost a few, and still have 'Brazil Gem', 'Bermuda Red', and sp. 'J. Bell'. Yes, I agree, some get very nice dark foliage. Right now, 'J. Bell' is coming back from near death, so I haven't flowered it yet, but under lights it is solid dark bronze. I love 'Brazil Gem'--on a bright window sill it flowered heavily when still quite short. 'Bermuda Red', which Maryjane Evans used in her cross, does get quite tall but in good light turned from green to a deep uniform dark bronze. It looks like some of its hybrids inherited the tendency to get tall too. I am growing three of Maryjanes seedlings of BR x 'Sunny' and they seem to be fairly compact, but I have noticed that the cross Dale made with one of Maryjane's crossed to 'Mother's Lipstick' seems to want to get tall before flowering. Dale's cross seedlings all seem to be very dark.

Of the Carib. plants I know there are some more out there. One is called 'Grenada'. I lost that one--I remember it had a most impressive big rhizome, but don't remember anything. else. I wonder how many other clones of these things are in cultivation? I do like them, even though their flowers are small and they can get big. I know you believe they are most likely hybrids, but I just can't see how hybrids could have been made and then circulated around all those islands. It seems more likely to uninformed me that they are examples of species variation within a single species. I know that each island is supposed to have its own agave. They were originally described as each being a separate species, but today they are in controversy--they probably are all one species with variations. So, I suspect that the kohlerias are natural. But, I am interested to learn what you think about all this. (I suppose, I will just have to collect them all and grow them side by side--sigh ;( ). I am picturing my big living room windows filled with huge pots of blooming kohlerias--maybe 25-50 pots o branched plants, all four feet tall and in flower. It sure beats the look of all the sansevierias that are in there now.


    Bookmark   November 30, 2004 at 4:03PM
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bumble_bee(5b Montreal)

Thank you Jon_D and Johnnieb for all this info and thanks Ooojen for your kind words.
My "other" kohleria hirsuta (rhizomes I bought from a different person) has little green leaves showing. I don't know what kind of hirsuta it will be but at least it's not another Dark Velvet!

    Bookmark   November 30, 2004 at 6:57PM
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jon_d(Northern Calif.)

Good to hear you have the plant already. I think any kohleria is worth growing. They all are beautiful. Good old 'Dark Velvet' even though it can get big, is still a wonderful plant to grow. I remember noticing my plant had one stem that stayed in flower for over a year and was going strong--in a bright east window site. I can't remember how long it went. The only way to stop it is to dry it out severely. Kohlerias really like a lot of light now--under lights or in a sunny window. They need more light than streps, episcias or AV's.

They are also sensitive to cold. I keep them in the house now rather than in my cooler greenhouse. If kept in good conditions they will stay evergreen as there are always new shoots up before old growths die. But, if dried out, they can die back to the ground and then reappear from rhizomes once they become moist again.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2004 at 8:05PM
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Oh darn- cold sensitive. There goes my dream of a 5-footer by the nice, bright but cool front entry. Back to the light shelves and small stature for it.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2004 at 8:51PM
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jon_d(Northern Calif.)

Well sensitive to cold is a relative thing. I am finding they are generally happy in indoor human type conditions, rather than greenhouse conditions where they cool down into the low 50's or even into the mid 40's at night. In those conditions they tend to go dormant. But, my living room isn't heated and that's where the 'Dark Velvet' flowered for so many months. You just need to experiment with them, try them in different parts of the house at different times of the year and see what happens. They are not nearly as cold sensitive as episcias, though K. allenii, which is flowering over my kitchen sink is probably the least hardy, according to John.


    Bookmark   December 1, 2004 at 2:37PM
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