Gesneriaceae

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African Violet Family

Columnea nicaraguensis Oerst., an epiphyte in the Gesneriaceae. Note the succulent stem and the strong anisophylly. Una epífita. Note el tallo suculento y las hojas anisofilas.


Description: A family of herbs and occasionally soft-wooded shrubs. Some are climbers or hemiepiphytes, usually with adventitious roots. Gesneriaceae have opposite leaves, but they are almost all anisophyllous (i.e., the two leaves at a node are different sizes). In some cases the smaller leaflet falls off during development, leaving an effectively alternate-leaved plant. Many Gesneriaceae have fuzzy leaves. Their flowers are large and showy, with a fused five-lobed corolla and four stamens with anthers joined at the tip.

Economic uses: This is one of the families that Dr. Mark McKone (pers. comm.) refers to as the “Houseplantaceae.” Gesneriaceae are extremely popular, due to their lovely flowers and their tolerance for very low light levels (hardly surprising in low-growing understory herbs, which subsist on the 1-2% of sunlight that penetrates to the forest floor). African violets (genus Saintpaulia) and a variety of other popular houseplants belong to this family. Episcia lilacina, another Gesneriad, is the pretty lilac-flowered plant with variegated leaves growing around the heliconias in the lab clearing at La Selva.


Descripción: Una familia de hierbas y a veces arbustos de madera suave. Algunas son trepadoras o hemiepífitas, usualmente con raíces adventicias. Las Gesneriaceas tienen hojas opuestas, pero casi todas son anisofilas (es decir, las dos hojas en el mismo nudo son de tamaños diferentes). A veces la hoja más pequeña se cae durante el desarrollo de la planta, y le da la apariencia de una planta con hojas alternas. Muchas Gesneriaceas tienen hojas peludas. Las flores son grandes y llamativas, con la corola tubular de cinco lóbulos y cuatro estambres que se unen en el centro de la flor.

Usos económicos: Esta familia es muy popular como planta ornamental de interior al tener flores llamativas y tolerar niveles muy bajos de luz (una característica que no es muy sorprendente en plantas del sotobosque, donde solo el 1-2% de la luz logra penetrar de los estratos superiores del bosque). Violetas africanas (el genero Saintpaulia) y otras plantas populares como planta de interior pertenecen a esta familia. La planta pequeña con flores lilas que crece cerca de las heliconias en el claro del laboratorio en La Selva es Episcia lilacina, otra Gesneriaceae.


Genera/species at La Selva: 9/28: Herbs/ hierbas: Chrysothemis (1), Episcia (1), Napeanthus (2) Subwoody epiphytic climbers/ epífitas trepadoras: Besleria (5), Columnea (6), Codonanthe (3), Diastema (1), Drymonia (9), Paradrymonia (1).


FIELD MARKS - Flowers with fused five-lobed corrola and four stamens with anthers joined at the tip.


Columnea in flower
The white flower and purple blush to the underside of the leaves help identify Drymonia macrophylla.


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