Streptocarpus caulescens

nodding violet


Streptocarpus caulescens

Vatke 1882

pronounced: strep-toh-KAR-puss kawl-ESS-kenz

(Gesneriaceae — the African violet family)


common name: nodding violet

Streptocarpus comes from the Greek στρεπτος (streptos), flexible, twisted, and καρπος (carpos), fruit; caulescens is from καυλος (kaulos), a stalk – like a stalk.

The African violet family was named in honour of Conrad Gesner, (1516–1565), the Swiss physician and naturalist, who is best known for his systematic compilations of information on animals and plants. It is a highly diverse family, distributed throughout the tropics and into the north and south temperate zones, with plants that are often very beautiful, and amenable to both indoor and outdoor cultivation where reasonable conditions are provided. It includes such popular plants as the African Violet itself (Saintpaulia hybrids), the Gloxinia (Sinningia hybrids) and the Lipstick Plant (Aeschynanthus sp.). Some members of the family are used in local medicines in tropical areas.

The roots of the members of Gesneriaceae are usually fibrous, or woody tubers, or scaly rhizomes. Some have aerial stolons. The stems are often fleshy, and are often brittle. The flowers are irregular, and have 5 each of sepals and petals. The petals may be fused into a tube at the base.

The Streptocarpus genus consists of some 132 species of annuals and frost-tender perennials, and is endemic to Madagascar and mainland Africa. Unlike African Violets, Streptocarpus caulescens is easy to grow and propagate. It strikes readily from leaf and stem cuttings, but the plants do get leggy if they are not trimmed back after their growth period. These plants have been widely hybridized, and there are many interesting and attractive varieties available. They produce attractive leaves, that may have wavy edges, and bear beautiful trumpet-shaped flowers intermittently throughout the year.

Streptocarpus caulescens is an evergreen with masses of showy hanging flowers, the reason for the common name. It grows well in a hanging basket, and will also grow indoors, or on balconies and patios. It can even be planted in the garden, where it will grow to about 30 – 50 cm tall and wide, in either morning or afternoon sun for 4 – 6 hours. Indoors, it likes a brightly lit position. It does not like over-watering – once a week is generally sufficient. In the garden, it needs a place with well-drained soil.

The leaves are fleshy, oval, and dark green. They are long-petioled, entire, with a slightly undulating margin.

The flowers are clusters of small tubular soft mauve or purple blooms, borne on long thin stalks.


Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2010, 2011
Page last updated 9th April 2019