Full name and orig. publication: Smithiantha Kuntze, Revis. gen. pl. 2: 977 (1891).

Etymology: Named in honor of Matilda Smith (1854-1928), an artist and plant painter, making excellent drawings for the Botanical Magazine from 1878 until her death.

Synonyms: Naegelia Regel (1848), nom. illeg., non Rabenh. (1844).

Infrafamilial position: Gesnerioid Gesneriaceae (Gesnerioideae) - Gloxinieae.

Description: Terrestrial, perennial plants with scaly rhizomes. Stem erect, herbaceous or suffrutescent, usually unbranched. Leaves opposite, petiolate, lamina mostly cordate, soft-hairy, often attractively mottled with purple and/or white. Flowers in a terminal raceme, subtending bracts small, alternate. Stalks of flowers without bracteoles. Sepals short and small. Corolla red, orange, with darker spots, sometimes yellow inside, lavender, purple or white with darker stripes; tubular to campanulate, mouth not constricted, limb with small or prominent, subequal rounded lobes. Stamens 4 included, adnate to base of corolla tube; anthers coherent. Nectary ring-shaped, eventually shallowly lobed. Ovary semi-inferior. Fruit a dry, bivalved capsule.

Chromosome number: 2n = 24.

Species number: About 7.

Type species: Smithiantha zebrina (Paxt.) Kuntze

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

Distribution: C & N Mexico to Guatemala

Ecology: In forest habitats in the mountains, seasonally dormant.

Notes: Both in the attractively coloured, mottled leaves and in the flowers the species of Smithiantha are beautiful ornamentals. The flower-bearing part, which is an elongated raceme with long-pedicelled flowers emerging from the axils of small, scale-like bracts, is well set off from the vegetative part. Like in Koellikeria, the bracts are alternately arranged, while the foliage leaves are decussate. According to Zimmer et al. (2002) and Smith (pers. comm.) the genus is closely allied to Eucodonia.

Selected references: Wiehler, Phytologia 73: 220-241 (1992), Gesneriana 1: 29-97 (1995), new spp.

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


Smithiantha zebrina (Paxt.) Kuntze,  type species

Left: Bot. Mag. t. 3940 (1841).
Right: phot. L. E. Skog G 167 (1958).


last modified: 2007-07-13