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African violet

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African violet
African Violet.GIF
Scientific Classification
Species
  • S. inconspicua
  • S. goetzeana
  • S. ionantha
  • S. pusilla
  • S. shumensis
  • S. teitensis
African Violet Three.GIF

African Violets are any of the species of ornamental plants that belong to the genus Saintpaulia. Although there are only six recognized species of Saintpaulia. There are, in fact, twenty different known species of Saintpaulia. The genus, Saintpaulia, is named after Baron Walter von Saint Paul-Illaire who originally discovered the plant in 1892 in Tanganyika, Africa (now present-day Tanzania).[1]

Anatomy

African Violet Roots by Satrina0 on Flickr
The African violet is part of the genus Saintpaulia, which is made up of mostly tropical perennial herbs. [2]

The Saintpaulia can grow to be between 6-15 cm. in height and anywhere from 6-30 inch. wide, the flowers of the Saintpaulia are usually small and only grow to be 2 or 3 cm wide. There can be anywhere from three to ten flowers on a single plant. Saintpaulia leaves come in all sorts of colors: violet, purple, pale blue, and sometimes even white. The leaves are usually round in shape and can be 2.5 to 8.5 cm. long with a 2 to 10 cm. petiole. They also have a fleshy texture when you touch the surface of the leaf. Some of the subspecies of the Saintpaulia are in fact on the endangered list, while many others are threatened from the lack of cloud forest – their natural habitat.[3]

Reproduction

The Saintpaulia can reproduce asexually. By cutting the stem down the middle and placing each piece with a few roots attached into two separate pots a full Saintpaulia would grow in each. The same would happen with a few other species of Saintpaulia if you just took a leaf from one of the plants and planted it into a pot of rich, damp soil.[4]

Ecology

Purple African Violet by e_cathedra on Flickr

The Saintpaulia are usually small in size and isolated. The best area for a Saintpaulia to prosper is in a moist and shaded climate. You are most likely to find the Saintpaulia on granite rocks or steep cliffs running along a river bed or a small creek, some can be found growing on the ground in certain forests and others can be found on gneiss. Shallow soils in the rocks of cliffs and in humus pockets in-between the rocks are some of their favorite places to grow. In the forest they can be found growing on low tree trunks. The Saintpaulia prefers to grow alone and far from drought, so they usually are found growing alone in a place hard for other plants to survive. Some other plants that the Saintpaulia doesn’t mind growing close to are moss, epiphytic, and epilithic orchids and some pteridophytes.[5] Saintpaulia can be affected by many different kinds of diseases, the most common ones being: Bacterial Diseases, such as Bacterial Blight Erwinia and Crown Gall, Fungal Diseases, such as Crown Rot, Cylindrocarpon Root Rot, Fusarium Root Rot, Gray Mold, Leaf Spot, Phytophthora Root, Powdery Mildew, Pythium Root Rot, and Rhizoctonia Root, some Viral Diseases like Mosaic as well as Nematodes and Parasites, mostly Foliar Nematode and Root Knot.They may have a few uncategorized disorders such as Marginal Leaf Burn and Ring Spot [6]

Saving The Violets

Although there are only six recognized species of the Saintpaulia there are in fact twenty different species in Africa alone, all of them endangered. Why are we losing this very unique and beautiful plant? Simply because their habitat is being threatened. African Violets, found specifically on the rocky cliffs and shady slops of most rain forests in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, are losing their habitats due to logging being done in the rain forests. The rain forest trees provide the shade the plant needs to survive, and without trees the Violets are left to withstand the killing heat of the sun's UV rays. [7]

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