Have you ever stared down into the mouth of a volcano? Take a closer look. Can you feel the visual heat? It makes me sweat with excitement just looking at it. What you are looking at is the inside of the amazingly electric, tubular bell-like flowers of a plant from the Gesneriaceae family. Same plant family as the African Violet. Let me introduce you to ‘Violet’s’ cousin from the new world tropics, Seemannia sylvatica also referred to as Gloxinia sylvatica and Bolivian Sunset.
Seemannia sylvatica comes to us from the eastern Bolivian slopes of the Andes. It’s a rhizomatous perennial that forms a trailing, yet bushy groundcover outfitted in narrow, satiny lance-like leaves. Slight hairs on their surfaces give them that extra luster. Plants grow to around 2 feet by 2 feet in size. When seasonal temperatures are on the cool side, Seemannia sylvatica punctuates its plush stems and foliage with lusciously luminous flowers that are symbolic of smokin’-hot-electric-lava-drops. The color demands to be visually tasted, leaving you stimulated by its electric eruption of deliciousness. And if that weren’t enough, the flowers continue to intoxicate with their stunningly seductive yellow-orange throats speckled with volcanic visions of rich, riotous red.
Seemannia sylvatica likes to luxuriate in part sun/bright light conditions with regular moisture and, ideally, some humidity. It likes to grow in fertile, well-draining soil and is a colorful candidate to grow indoors as well as out. It is fairly hardy down to 30 degrees fahrenheit/-1 degrees celsius. Another thing to note is that it can get scorched and wilt in hot, dry conditions.
I first saw Seemannia sylvatica in the Conservatory at The Huntington Botanical Gardens. Stopped me in my tracks. If you want to check it out in bloom, visit late autumn through spring to catch the light show. This is definitely one stylish plant to know and grow. If you can find it (I’ve only seen it available online), get yourself one and bask in its electric awesomeness!