Full name and orig. publication: Niphaea Lindl., Bot. Reg. 27, Misc. 80 (Oct. 1841).

Etymology: From the Greek νιφος, niphos = snow; in allusion to the plain white flowers.

Synonyms: Meneghinia Vis. (1846).

Infrafamilial position: Gesnerioid Gesneriaceae (Gesnerioideae) - Gloxinieae.

Description: Terrestrial perennial herbs, with scaly rhizomes. Stem low, erect, herbaceous, terete. Leaves opposite, (sub)equal, distinctly petiolate, lamina ovate to elliptic, serrate, main and side veins sometimes purplish (never white or silvery), softly hairy, side veins (2-)5-7 pairs. Axillary cymes of 1 to few long-stalked flowers, ± composing a terminal corymb. Sepals forming a campanulate calyx. Corolla rotate to subrotate, shallowly campanulate, white. Stamens 4, adnate to corolla base; filaments short (shorter than or as long as anthers), straight; anthers yellow, free, thecae oblong, parallel, apically confluent, dehiscence by longitudinal slits. Nectary absent. Ovary semi-inferior, style curved, stigma stomatomorphic. Fruit an ovoid, dry, rostrate capsule, dehiscing loculicidally, valves opening only slightly, with a fringe of stiff hairs on the inner margins of the valves.

Chromosome number: 2n = 22.

Species number: 3 (plus 1-2 undescribed species)

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

Type species: Niphaea oblonga Lindl.

Distribution: S Mexico, Guatemala.

Ecology: Terrestrial forest herbs, growing in damp, shady places, earth banks or on rocks.

Notes: In habit and in the shape of the flowers (pollen flowers!) Niphaea is very similar to Phinaeaand Amalophyllum. Differences to these genera include the chromosome number (n = 11, not n = 13), the purplish (not white-silvery) side veins of the leaves, the straight (not curved) and relatively short filaments (shorter than or as long as anthers), the oblolong (not subglobose) and parallel (not divergent) thecae and the dry, rostrate capsule, with a fringe of stiff hairs on the inner margins of the valves.

Selected references: Wiehler, Gloxinian 52/3: 21-25 (2002), gen. inf.; Boggan, Skog & Roalson, Selbyana 29(2): 157-176 (2008), tax.

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


Niphaea oblonga Lindl., type species

Left: Bot. Reg. 28, t. 5 (1842)
Right: cult. RBG Edinburgh, phot. A. Weber (1998)


last modified: 2007-01-05