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African violet
Saintpaulia 'Pink Amiss' 02.jpg
A Saintpaulia ionantha cultivar
Scientific classification
Species

Saintpaulia goetzeana
Saintpaulia inconspicua
Saintpaulia ionantha
Saintpaulia pusilla
Saintpaulia shumensis
Saintpaulia teitensis

Saintpaulia tongwensis
Saintpaulia closeup
Saintpaulia flowers
Saintpaulia rupicola - Berlin Botanical Garden - IMG 8705
Saintpaulia rupicola = S. ionantha ssp. rupicola

Saintpaulia, commonly known as African violet, is a genus of 6–20 species of herbaceous perennial flowering plants in the family Gesneriaceae, native to Tanzania and adjacent southeastern Kenya in eastern tropical Africa. Typically the African violet is a common household indoor plant but can also be an outdoor plant.

Several of the species and subspecies are endangered, and many more are threatened, due to their native cloud forest habitats being cleared for agriculture. The conservation status of Saintpaulia ionantha has been classed as near-threatened.

Description

Saintpaulia, which grow from 6–15 cm tall, can be anywhere from 6–30 cm wide. The leaves are rounded to oval, 2.5–8.5 cm long with a 2–10 cm petiole, finely hairy, and have a fleshy texture. The flowers are 2–3 cm in diameter, with a five-lobed velvety corolla ("petals"), and grow in clusters of 3–10 or more on slender stalks called peduncles. Wild species can have violet, purple, pale blue, or white flowers.

Sizes

Plants can be classified as one of several sizes based on its above-ground diameter. Although the size per category is not set in stone, these are a general guideline.

  • Micro: less than 3 inches
  • Super-mini: 3 to 4 inches
  • Mini: between 4 and 6 inches
  • Semi-mini: between 6 and 8-10 inches
  • Standard: between 8-10 to 12-16 inches
  • Large/Giant: over 12-16 inches

Growth

Temperature

Saintpaulias are highly sensitive to temperature changes, especially rapid leaf cooling. Spilling cold water on African violet leaves causes discoloration. This is thought to be because rapid leaf cooling causes cell vacuole collapse in the palisade mesophyll cells.

Propagation

African violets are commonly propagated asexually. Plants can be divided into smaller daughter plants or even grown from leaf cuttings. Growing African violets from seed is rare and most commercially available plants are produced from cuttings and tissue culture.

Flowering

The African violet is a day-neutral plant regarding flower development.

Distribution

Saintpaulias are native to eastern tropical Africa. There is a concentration of species in the Nguru mountains of Tanzania.

Cultivation

Saintpaulias are widely cultivated as house plants. Until recently, only a few of these species have been used in breeding programs for the hybrids available in the market; most available as house plants are cultivars derived from Saintpaulia ionantha (syn. S. kewensis). A wider range of species is now being looked at as sources of genes to introduce into modern cultivars.

The African Violet Society of America is the International Cultivar Registration Authority for the genus Saintpaulia and its cultivars.

In culture

African violets have long been associated with mothers and motherhood. For this reason they have been a traditional gift to mothers in many cultures around the world. African violets are also associated with Easter and Valentine's Day.

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