home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Gesneriaceae (African violet family)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Asterids > Euasterid I > Order: Lamiales

About 147 genera and 3200 species, found patchily worldwide but mainly in the Old World (especially China). One genus and 63 species are native to southern Africa (Streptocarpus), with an additional 12 genera and 22 species cultivated in the region.

Distinguishing characteristics

  • Herbs or soft-stemmed shrubs with opposite, serrate leaves that usually have soft hairs.
  • The leaves have arching, ascending secondary veins that do not join at the margin.
  • Flower are symmetric in only one axis (monosymmetric) and the ovary has parietal placentation.

Information from Angiosperm Phylogeny Website.

Genera native to southern Africa


About 125 species, native to Madagascar, tropical and southern Africa, with about 63 species native to southern Africa, and an additional three species cultivated in the region.
Streptocarpus rexii

Other genera, cultivated in southern Africa

List from Glen (2002). The species name is provided in genera that have only one species cultivated in southern Africa.

Achimenes longiflora

Native to Central America.



Two species cultivated.


Chirita lavandulacea

Native to Vietnam.


Codonanthe gracilis

Native to Brazil.



Three species cultivated.


Corytoplectus capitatus

Native to Venezuela. 



Three species cultivated.



One unidentified species cultivated.


Lysionotus serratus

Native to India.


Nematanthus gregarius (Goldfish plant)

Native to Brazil.



Three species cultivated.


Smithiantha zebrina

Native to Mexico.



  • Glen, H.F. 2002. Cultivated Plants of Southern Africa. Jacana, Johannesburg.

  • Smithies, S.J. 2000. Gesneriaceae. In: Seed Plants of Southern Africa (ed. O.A. Leistner). Strelitzia 10: 314. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.