Friday, August 22, 2008

Cult Leader (Saintpaulia ionantha cvv., Part II

If you got here by looking for care information for African violets (Saintpaulia ionantha cvv.), you want Part I of this post. This is the less-interesting, more technical Part II, in which I do my best to understand, and then explain to other people, some specialized African violet vocabulary, and partly fail (at least when it comes to variegation).


Bells are single (i.e., not double) flowers with a bell-shaped flower.
Chimera or pinwheel flowers have flowers of one color with a stripe of a contrasting color running the length of the petal (the petals are usually called lobes, for reasons which are unclear to me), down the center.
Doubles have more than one row of lobes. The "Dieffenbachia-leafed" plant I mentioned in Part I is a double, among other things.
Edged flowers have a thin line of a different color around the edge of the lobes. If the edge color is white, the flowers are called Geneva flowers. We seem to get a lot of Genevas in at work, and they do sell, but I don't personally find them all that interesting.

A NOID Geneva flower.

Fantasy blossoms are spotted or streaked with a second color, on top of the base color of the flower. The second color may be something entirely different, like yellow on pink, or it may be a different shade of the same color, like lavender on purple. Some of these are awesome in a way which is potentially very expensive for me.

A NOID fantasy flower.

Frilled flowers have lobes with very wavy or serrated edges. They can be doubled or single, or any color, including multicolor:

A NOID frilled flower.

Multicolor flowers contain two different colors, not in the same color family, like blue and white. (This is by contrast with Two-tone, q.v.)
A thumbprint-style flower (Thanks, Korina!).

Singles have five lobes; the lobes may be any color or combination of colors, they may be frilled or edged or whatever, but there are only five.
Stars have lobes which are all more or less the same size; the usual for Saintpaulia flowers is for the top two lobes to be small and the lowest three to be large. It seems to me like most African violets being sold are Stars, but admittedly I haven't been paying attention to that and I'm probably wrong.
Thumbprint flowers have one color at the flower's center and a contrasting color at the lobe tips (see above picture).
Two-tone flowers contain two shades of the same color, like lavender and purple.
Wasp flowers are singles with very thin lobes, or, according to some sites, singles in which two of the lobes have fused together into a tube. Wasp flowers usually go hand-in-hand with Compound leaves, see next section.


plants have leaves with smooth, rounded edges and no unusual texture to the leaf. The average grocery store Saintpaulia is a Boy. (also called Plain, Tailored, or Standard)
Compound leaves supposedly have three separate lobes to them, one large and two small. This is also sometimes called Wasp, Bustle, or Piggyback foliage. This might sound cool, but I couldn't find any pictures for the longest time, and then when I did find a picture, via alenka in the comments on Part I (alenka's link), it appears that the two small leaflets are actually on the underneath of the main one, meaning that although they're present, you can't really even see them unless you're holding the plant up above your head. And it's not like it looks especially pretty, either.
Girl plants usually have deeply scalloped leaves, with a lighter color marking at the leaf base.
Holly leaves are flexed in and out at the edges, giving them a series of points as well as a vague shape resemblance to holly leaves. Alenka's link also has a good shot of Holly leaves.
Pointed leaves come to a point, instead of being uniformly rounded or heart-shaped.
Quilted leaves have indented veins, and are often also Girls.
Spider leaves are narrow and pointed. Leaf edges may or may not be wavy. (also Longifolia) Some pictures, again, at alenka's link. I've never actually seen one of these in person: they sounded more interesting before I saw the pictures.
Spooned leaves curl up at the edges and have got to be an enormous pain to keep water off of. (also Ovate, Cupped) (Sometimes this indicates a cultural problem, and isn't actually part of the variety in question.)

A NOID with spooned (cupped) leaves.


(deep breath)

Crown-variegated leaves emerge from the center of the plant white, and turn greener as they age. It's also sometimes called Champion variegation.
Mosaic variegation, also called Lillian Jarrett variegation, is a pattern of mosaic-like splotches across the entire leaf surface. The variegated plant from the customer that rocked my world, pictured in Part I, is a Mosaic. (Also a Girl, a Medium Standard, and an Awesome. That last term is my own personal, kinda useless, contribution to the vocabulary, but I feel it needs to be said whenever I bring up the customer's plant.) Alenka, commenting at Part I, brought us a photo gallery that shows a leaf looking a lot like the "Dieffenbachia" plant but describes it as a mosaic. Which I suspect is what it probably is, though I had not been aware, previously, that mosaics could be blotchy on only part of the leaf like this.
Nancy Reagan variegation is described here as a variegated leaf where the lighter color is mainly in the center of the leaves. The "Dieffenbachia" plant of mine might be a Nancy Reagan type, aaaand it might not: if a leaf is light in the middle but also speckled, is it a Nancy Reagan or a Mosaic? Or is "Harmony's Little Stinker," possibly, a Nancy Reagan?
Tommie Lou variegation is when the leaf edge is a different color from the rest of the leaf; the color is usually speckled, though I've seen varieties that had a thin white edge running around the leaf, with very little white and no speckling. This might have been cultural (a plant grown in warm conditions might develop without much white or pink at the edge), or it might have been part of the plant normally. Tommie Lou variegation seems, in my amateur estimation, to be the most common type. The plant I got from Lowes appears to be a Tommie Lou, though I'd hoped for a Lillian Jarrett. Some good pictures, which demonstrate pretty clearly what a Tommie Lou is, are, again, at alenka's link.


Micro-miniatures are the smallest plants, with a mature size of two inches in diameter or less. They're usually grown in a 1-inch pot.
Super-miniatures have a mature diameter of 3-4 inches, and are usually grown in a 1-inch pot.
Miniatures are 4-6 inches in diameter, and are usually grown in a 2-inch pot.
Compacts are 6-8 inches in diameter, usually in a 3-inch pot.
Standard is the designation which covers all the plants that are 8 or more inches in diameter, but it's divided into small, medium and large. These are all usually grown in 4-inch pots.
Standard Small is 8-10 inches in diameter.
Standard Medium is 10-14 inches in diameter.
Standard Large is 14-16 inches in diameter.
I am unclear whether these are "official" measurements or just the guesses of one particular person: one assumes that there must be size standards for African violet shows, but I couldn't find any at the AVSA, and not all of these terms are used by all sites.
(see comments for more re: sizes)

Anyway. If you've made it this far, you must really like African violets. And if you really like African violets, then you're probably wondering if I intend to get to the stuff I said about there being a gazillion African violet societies. Well you're in luck: I do.

This is actually more just a representative sampling of AV groups: an exhaustive list would be, well, exhausting, considering that Google registers, it says, 154,000 hits for "African violet society." This is only the first five pages, more or less, from Google.

A NOID edged, non-Geneva flower.

I make no promises about these groups being currently active, much less composed of more than one person, or containing people you might want to talk to or be friends with. In fact, some of them are probably domineering jerks who will hate you for no good reason. (If none of them are like this, then the domineering jerk is probably you: be careful.) But it's a place to start. And whatever you do, don't agree to take any "free personality tests" or drink any Kool-Aid: down that road leads tragedy.

African Violet Society of America (U.S.: this is apparently the parent group. A lot of the smaller groups identify themselves as being affiliated with the AVSA on their webpages)
Dixie African Violet Society (Southern U.S.)
Mid-Atlantic African Violet Society (East Central U.S.)
London African Violet Society (London, Ontario, Canada)
Oakville African Violet Society (Oakville, Ontario, Canada)
African Violet Society of Canada (Canada)
Upper Pinellas African Violet Society (Pinellas County, Florida?)
Swedish African Violet Society (or Svenska Saintpauliasällskapet, as its members presumably call it; Sweden)
Old Dominion African Violet Society (Maryland, Virginia, District of Columbia, U.S.)
Quad Cities African Violet Society (Quad Cities, IL/IA? Also somehow Missouri?)
Bay State African Violet Society (Massachusetts, U.S.)
Heart of Jacksonville African Violet Society (Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.)
The African Violet Society of Rochester NY (Rochester, New York, U.S.)
New York State African Violet Society (New York, U.S.)
Portland African Violet Society (Portland, Oregon, U.S.)
Hoosier African Violet Society (Indiana, U.S.)
African Violet Society of Oklahoma City (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S.)
Reno Sparks African Violet Society (Reno, Nevada, U.S.)
Windsor African Violet Society (Windsor, Connecticut, U.S.)
Missouri Valley African Violet Council (Central U.S.)
Richmond African Violet Society (Richmond, Virginia, U.S.)
Columbus African Violet Society (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.)
First Austin African Violet Society (Austin, Texas, U.S.)
First Halifax African Violet Society (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)
African Violet Society of Greater Tulsa (Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.)
Tucson African Violet Society (Tucson, Arizona, U.S.)
Illinois African Violet Society (Illinois, U.S.)
Finnish Saintpaulia Society (Finland)

I encourage readers to surreptitiously collect statistics on what proportion of the membership of these groups fits the Little Old Lady demographic and report back to me.

If all else fails, you can always check out the Garden Web African Violet Forum; there's certain to be somebody on there who knows a guy whose wife's sister is the neighbor of somebody who's second cousins with a collector in your area. Or if you're in the U.S., you could always try e-mailing the AVSA and see if they know of any AVSA-affiliated groups in your area.


Photo credits: All photos for this post were from Tracy at dAmN pLaNtS, because, frankly, she's got a much more varied collection than I have at my home or at work combined.


Anonymous said...

Since you live in Iowa City, you might be interested to know that there is a regional violet show in Waterloo, Iowa, on October 11 at the Waterloo Center for the Arts. The sponsoring group is the Missouri Valley African Violet Council and it is definitely not the 'little old lady' demographic! This group includes members from about eight states and many of them are men!

Lance said...

I had no idea how serious this cult was, I am truly amazed, and a little bit frightened.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you Mr. S. This lovely profile makes me squee just a bit (and the name, cult leader, is perfect).

Okay. The NOID multiclolor type is called a 'thumbprint', for obvious reasons.

Girl leaves are always lighter at the base; they are usually, but not always, lobed (I had one that was perfectly circular!).

Spooning can be cultural (too much heat or cold or something).

Never heard of 'Nancy Reagan' variegation, though there is a variety by that name on the AVSA site.

TL or Tommie Lou (the first variety to exhibit this variegation) is around the edges; however, the edges can cover most of the leaf, leaving a thin strip in the middle to carry the chlorophyll.

Real longifolia leaves are long and strappy; check out Elizabethan Ruffle, Celery, Brass Band, and several David Senk varieties. Most are available on eBay, with pictures.

The AVSA sizes run mini=up to 6", semi-mini= up to 8", standard= up to 18", large= over 18" (some can reach 30" diameter, with extremely good care). Micro-miniatures top out at 3", but they aren't an official size classification.

You didn't even mention trailers! Get ye back, back to Rob's! Go on, go!

FC2, a database listing every variety registered through the AVSA, currently has 16,235 entries. This doesn't count the gazillions that every commercial greenhouse comes up with and sells unlabeled.

The easiest way to find a group near you is on the AVSA web site; they have a listing of affiliate groups organized by state.

Thanks again, Mr. S.


Anonymous said...

About longifolia leaves and bustle back ones -- you have to give them a chance! They do look very cool in person. My most favorite plant is a longifolia. I think all these weird leaf shapes are what says (in deep authoritative voice): "African Violet! Not just your grandmother's plant any more!" :) I mean, yeah, you do kinda have to pick the plant up and look closely at it to appreciate the little bustles on bustle-back leaves -- but that's actually why I like african violets -- they are very pick-up-able, holdable plants. I mean, if you want a plant that you can put away on a windowsill and treat with respect and fear, then you get a cactus. But if you want a plant you'll want to pick up and touch its fuzzy leaves, then you get an african violet. I have a soft spot for warm fuzzy plants :) And when african violets have those odd-shaped leaves, I feel like that's a decent compromise -- the plant is still touchable and holdable, but it's also cool -- and not overly obnoxiously cute, the way regular african violets can be.

I don't think I have an extra longifolia plantlets (though I have to check, I might have a Celery that's not promised to anyone) -- but if you ever feel like you don't have enough plants, and want to test-drive a couple of wasps (the ones with bustle-backs), or a very spooned plant, or a tiny plantlet of Harmony's Little Stinker (I grew it from a bloomstalk!) let me know. I've never mailed plants, but I'd give it a try, when it gets cooler. I don't want to leave my e-mail address here, but I could e-mail you through GW, if you like.

Shirley Bovshow "EdenMaker" said...

wow, that is some heavy info. You are the man!

Barbee' said...

I have been here for a good while reading all over. Whew, with all those plants when in world do you have time to eat and sleep!! You must dream about plants if you ever do sleep. Keep up the good work. I for one am greatly impressed!

Anonymous said...

I think I may have been confused or confusing about the "Little Stinker". It's just a chimera, from what I can determine, and not an example of "Champion" type foliage. Sorry for my confusion! That's what I get for trying to look stuff up in a hurry at work! You know you can order "Golden Plume" from Rob's, right?