Full name and orig. publication: Bellonia [Plum. ex] L., Sp. pl., ed.1: 172 (1 May 1753).

Etymology: Named after Pierre Belon (also spelled Bellon) (1499-1564), a famous French naturalist and traveller. 

Synonym: Bellonia Adans. (1763).

Infrafamilial position: Gesnerioid Gesneriaceae (Gesnerioideae) - Gesnerieae.

Description: Shrubs 0,4-1,2m high. Stems woody, arching. Leaves opposite, (sub)equal, thin, sharply toothed to scalloped and almost holly-like. Flowers born in the leaf axils. Sepals narrow, spreading. Corolla white, flat-faced, actinomorphic, with elliptical, rounded lobes. Stamens 5, exserted; filaments very short; anthers large, yellow, forming a cone in the flower centre, thecae dehiscing by apical pores. Nectary absent. Ovary superior. Fruit a dry, bivalved capsule with loculicidal dehiscence.

Chromosome number: 2n = 26.

Species number: 2 [B. aspera L., B. spinosa Swartz].

Species names (incl. publication and synonyms): See Skog, L.E. & J.K. Boggan. 2005: World checklist of Gesneriaceae:

Type species: Bellonia aspera L.

Distribution: Cuba and Hispaniola.

Ecology: Usually growing on humid limestone rocks.

Notes: The genus is remarkable by (a) shrubby-woody habit, (b) presence of thorns in B. spinosa (modified axillary shoots; Bellonia is in fact the only spiny species of Gesneriaceae), and (c) white Solanum-like flowers exhibiting perfectly the syndrome of oligandrous pollen flowers (nodding flower position, rotate corolla, yellow anther cone, poricidal anther dehiscence, lack of a nectary; see Vogel 1978). The flowers are apparently buzz-pollinated by bees. Unpublished molecular data (J.F. Smith, pers. comm.) place the genus in tribe Gesnerieae.

Selected references: Xu & Skog, Acta Sci. Nat. Univ. Sunyatseni Suppl. 9: 95-107 (1990), rev.

Bibliography: See Skog, L.E. & J.K. Boggan. 2005. Bibliography of the Gesneriaceae. 2nd edition:


Bellonia aspera L., type species

Lamarck, Encycl. 1, t. 149 (1797)

Bellonia spinosa Swartz

Left: Gloxinian 34(4): 18 (1984)
Right: Gloxinian 34(4): cover illustration (1984)


last modified: 2007-01-05