Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the May 17, 2015 Newsletter issued from Río Lagartos, on the north-central coast of Yucatán, MÉXICO

During the last week of April I camped in the mountain-top hydrological reserve above and to the north of San Andrés Tuxtla, Veracruz, Mexico. Our page describing that reserve and showing a satellite view of the entire region is at http://www.backyardnature.net/mexnat/tuxtla.htm.

In the cloud forest atop the mountain, plants were adapted to moist, windless, never-too-cold conditions, and for struggling to get what little light was available. One plant family producing many species able to deal with such conditions is the African Violet or Gesneria Family, the Gesneriaceae. Members of the family often are referred to as "gesneriads." Despite the family being a big one, no gesneriads appear in the vast Flora of North America, and none is listed for the arid northern Yucatan Peninsula, because gesneriads simply can't deal with the cold. Most gesneriads are soft-bodied, hairy and produce fleshy, colorful flowers.

A sunlight-groping, slender shrub-gesneriad that almost was a vine the way it went up a tree and leaned into an open spot is shown at the top of this page. This plant's flowers absolutely exploded with pinkness in their little patch of sunlight. Actually the pinkness was produced by the flowers' oversized bracts, or modified leaves, with the fuzzy, tubular flowers being a bright yellow, as shown below in a flash-assisted close-up:


By consulting pictures of every member of the African Violet Family known to occur in the hydrological reserve, the plant revealed itself as DRYMONIA STRIGOSA, which doesn't seem to have an English name. The species occupies moist, shaded habitats from southern Mexico to southern Central America. The genus embraces over a hundred species, many of which are cultivated indoors for their prettiness

Not much information is known about this pretty species in the wild, but gardeners who specialize in growing gesneriads regard Drymonia strigosa as easy to grow, easily producing seed in an orange fruit. Among gesneriad-growing gardeners it's regarded as "a good starter Drymonia" that's relatively easy to find on sale.

You might enjoy scanning a page of many cultivated Drymonia species at a website just for gesneriad growers, at http://www.gesneriads.ca/gendrymo.htm.