Full name and orig. publication: Gesneria [Plum. ex] L.; Sp. pl., ed. 1: 612 (1 May 1753).

Etymology: Named in honor of Conrad Ges(s)ner (Konrad von Gesner, Conradus Gesnerus) (1516-1565), a famous Swiss zoologist and botanist.

Synonyms: Pentarhaphia Lindl. (1827), Conradia Mart. (1829), nom. illeg., Duchartrea Decne. (1846), Herincquia Decne. (1848), Ophianthe Hanst. (1854), Chorisanthera (G.Don) Oerst. (1858), Codonoraphia Oerst. (1858), Vaupellia Griseb. (1862).

Infrafamilial position: Gesnerioid Gesneriaceae (Gesnerioideae) - Gesnerieae.

Description: Suffruticose herbs, shrubs, or arborescent plants (to 10 m tall). Stem erect, decumbent, or pendent, branched or not. Leaves alternate, exceptionally opposite, often crowed at branch tips; petiole sometimes very short, vascular trace a thick ring or U in cross section; lamina membranous or coriaceous, usually with adaxial multiple epidermis containing crystal cells. Inflorescences axillary, compound or few-flowered cymes or reduced to solitary flowers. Sepals slightly connate at base. Corolla tubular, ventricose or infundibuliform-campanulate; white, green red, orange, yellow or brown, limb regular or bilabiate, lobes spreading or reflexed. Stamens 4; filaments curved or geniculate at base, inserted at base of corolla tube; anthers cohering in two pairs, at their apices or in a row side by side. Nectary annular or lobed. Ovary inferior; stigma stomatomorphic, clavate, capitate or bilabiate. Fruit a dry capsule, dehiscing into 2 or 4 valves, sometimes forming a splash cup.

Chromosome number: 2n = 14, 28, 56.

Species number: 46.

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

Type species: Gesneria humilis L.

Distribution: Caribbaean region.

Ecology: On shaded rocks and cliffs in forest, usually at higher elevations (to 2000m).

Notes: Nine sections are recognized by Skog (1976): (1) sect. Pentaraphia (Lindl.) Fritsch, (2) sect. Stenochonanthe L.E.Skog, (3) sect. Lachnoblaste L.E.Skog, (4) sect. Myrmekianthe L.E.Skog, (5) sect. Gesneria, (6) sect. Physcophyllon L.E.Skog, (7) sect. Dittanthera (G.Don) L.E.Skog, (8) sect. Duchartrea (Decne.) Fritsch, and (9) sect. Chorisanthera (G.Don) L.E.Skog. With regard to corolla form, two groups can be distinguished. The larger group (6 sections) has tubular or ventricose corollas indicating hummingbird-pollination, the smaller group (3 sections) has campanulate corollas and is apparently chiropterophilous. Wiehler (1983) suggested to include Rhytidophyllum Mart. and Pheidonocarpus L.E.Skog in Gesneria, but did not make formal transfers and nobody followed him later on. 

Selected references: Skog, Smiths. Contr. Bot. 29: 43-182 (1976), rev.; Wiehler, Selbyana 6: 198-203 (1983).

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


Gesneria christii Urb.

Cult. Marie Selby BG, phot. A. Weber (1982)


Gesneria pedunculosa (DC.) Fritsch

Plant of the week, Smithsonian Institution, 
phot. L. Brothers,

Gesneria ventricosa ssp. ventricosa

Cult. BG Vienna, phot. A. Weber (1982)

Gesneria ventricosa ssp. ventricosa

Cult. BG Vienna, phot. A. Weber (1982)


last modified: 2007-04-03