Full name and orig. publication: Chirita [Buch.-Ham. ex] D.Don, Edinburgh Phil. J. 7: 83 (1822).

Etymology: Name of Indian origin, denoting a gentian or one of the species of Chirita.

Synonyms: Tromsdorffia Blume (1826), non Bernh. (1800), Calosacme Wall. (1829), Liebigia Endl. (1841), Mortsdorffia Steud. (1841), Hypopteron Hassk. (1844), Babactes DC. (1845), Bilabium Miq. (1856), Gonatostemon Regel (1866),  Roettlera subgen. Chirita (D.Don) Fritsch (1895), Damrongia [Kerr ex] Craib (1918), Didymocarpus subgen. Chirita (D.Don) Chun (1946), Ceratoscyphus Chun (1946), Deltocheilos W.T.Wang (1981).

Infrafamilial position: Didymocarpoid Gesneriaceae - "Advanced Asiatic and Malesian genera" (Weber 2004).

Description: Annual or perennial, acaulescent, rosulate or caulescent (erect or creeping) herbs, sometimes slightly woody. Indumentum of simple, white or red hairs, or hairs hooked or glandular. Leaves opposite, sometimes ternate or whorled; petiole long or short, winged or not; lamina variable in shape, with a range from nearly linear to suborbicular; often ovate, sometimes lobed, pinnatifid or pinnate. Cymes axillary, sometimes displaced onto the petiole, one- to many-flowered, bracteoles free or connate, large, small or lacking. Sepals free or connate, linear-lanceolate to suborbicular, sometimes fimbriate. Corolla narrowly tubular to broadly funnel-shaped; limb slightly to distinctly bilabiate. Stamens 2, anthers fused either apically or face to face or joined by a ligature, rarely free; with divergent (rarely parallel) thecae. Staminodes 2 or very rarely 3. Nectary cup-shaped, rim entire, cleft or lobed. Ovary very rarely stipitate, rarely one carpel sterile; stigma usually with the upper lobe absent and the lower lobe expanded into a shortly bifid lamina.

Chromosome number: 2n = 8, 20, 18, 28, 32, 34, 36.

Species number: Between 80 and 140.

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

Type species: Chirita urticifolia D.Don

Distribution: From the Western Himalayas and E & S China to S India, Sri-Lanka and W Malesia (Sumatra, Malay Peninsula, Sarawak, Java). 

Ecology: On wet rocks and shady places in forest, but also in open places, especially on limestone cliffs, from sea-level to 3200m.

Notes:  Despite the recent revisions of Wood (l.c.) and Wang et al. (l.c., Chinese species), the genus is still problematic with regard to delimitation and subdivision. Wood recognized 77 species and placed them in three sections:

(a) sect. Gibbosaccus C.B.Clarke (usually rosette plants with free sepals and gibbous corolla),

(b) sect. Chirita (usually rosette plants with connate sepals and tubular corolla),

(c) sect. Microchirita C.B.Clarke (caulescent and often annual plants with decussate leaves, free sepals and tubular corolla, peduncles often displaced onto the petiole).

From these, only the last one seems to be a natural entity. Wang (1985), using a somewhat different generic concept, subdivided the three sections into numerous subsections and series. He recognized 99 species in China (86 being endemic) and estimated the total number as 140 species (Wang et al. 1998: 311). The key character of the genus in its present circumscription is the stigma with upper lobe absent and the lower one enlarged and usually bifid. One of the many problems still to be solved is the status, variation and growth patterns of the taxonomically confusing C. asperifolia (Blume) B.L.Burtt in Sumatra, Java and Bali, for which sect. Liebigia was re-established by Hilliard (2003).

Selected references: Wood, Notes Roy. Bot. Gard. Edinburgh 33: 123-205 (1974), rev.; Weber, Notes Roy. Bot. Gard. Edinburgh 34: 221-230 (1975), infl. morph.; Wang, Bull. Bot. Res. 5(2): 1-97, 5(3): 37-86 (1985), reg. rev. (China); Wang & al. in Wu & Raven (eds.), Fl. China 18: 311-345 (1998), reg. rev.; Hilliard, in Grierson & Long, Fl. Bhutan 2(3): 1315-1320 (2001), reg. rev.; Hilliard, Edinburgh J. Bot. 60 (3): 361-387 (2003), re-establ. of sect. Liebigia & rev.; Burtt, Thai Forest Bull. (Botany) 29: 81-109 (2001), annot. checklist (Thailand).

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


Chirita urticifolia D.Don, type species

Nepal, phot. T. Wraber

Chirita caliginosa C.B.Clarke

Left: habit, 
Right: close-up of flower, cult.
BG Vienna, phot. A. Weber (1980)

Chirita dielsii (Borza) B.L.Burtt

Cult. RBG Edinburgh, phot. A. Weber (2002)

Chirita horsfieldii R.Br.

Bot. Mag. t. 4315 (1847)

Chirita micromusa  B.L.Burtt

Cult. BG Vienna, phot. A. Weber (1980)

Chirita sinensis Lindl.

Left: Bot. Mag. t. 4284 (1847)
Right: cult. R
BG Edinburgh, phot. A. Weber (1998)

Chirita walkeri Gardn.

Bot. Mag. t. 4327 (1847)


last modified: 2007-07-13