July 7, 2009

Mauro Peixoto on Sinningia

by Aarti

I just wanted to share a few quick impressions I had of Mauro Peixoto's talk.

First-it was absolutely wonderful. He went through photographs of new varieties, species and examples of Sinningias he has found, and also pictures of the species that we all know growing in their natural habitat. Both were enlightening. It's one thing to know that Sinningias can be found on rocky ground; it's another to see a picture of a beautiful plant, its tuber sitting bare on a small ledge of a rocky cliff, no humus or soil around it at all, exposed to salt water and wind, and thriving!

More than that, I came away with two strong impressions--first, that the variety of what is out there, both in new finds and variations on known plants, is mind-blowing. The second thing I came away with is how important it is for us to grow species.

Viewing pictures of what he's collected was a real treat--and I've found out he has pictures of many of his finds on brazilplants.com! His collections include unusual examples of species we're familiar with, like a red-leaved Sinningia eumorpha or a green-flowered Sinningia braziliensis, as well as stunning Sinningias I at least had never seen before. My favorite--which literally had people calling out during the lecture asking for more information about it--was the stunning Sinningia speciosa Regina - Serra da Vista. Lovely dark green leaves with prominent silver veins and large violet flowers. Another lovely and unusual one was Sinningia speciosa Bahia which had beautiful large eumorpha-type flowers in clear yellow with red lines in the throat. He also mentioned that Sinningia nivalis can withstand brief exposures to temperatures of -7 C.

Mauro also discussed which of the plants he showed were endangered, or the range of area in which some of the species were found. For me, it was a real eye-opener to realize how small the ranges for some of these plants are, and how vulnerable the wild population is. For example, most of us are familiar with Sinningia leucotricha. Given its widespread cultivation, I would have never guessed that it is critically endangered and difficult to find except in one small area. Or that Sinningia araneosa is found only on one small rock population surrounded by private property. Another species, S. insularis, is only found on one small tract of land, and that land is currently used by the Brazilian military for missile practice!

I had not realized how vulnerable the native populations of so many of these beautiful plants are, and how some of the species we grow may not exist in the wild a few years from now. I have to admit that I have been lax about sending seeds in to the Seed Fund--I do it if I remember, but not often enough--and that needs to change. I also have not grown many species, and I think that from now on I'll make a real effort to grow more, and particularly to try to get them to set seed that can be sent to the fund or distributed.