Ron Myhr is a long-time grower of gesneriads. He founded the Toronto Gesneriad Society in about 1978 and has frequently been active in the affairs of The Gesneriad Society. In the 1990s he started the Gesneriad Reference Web, which became a Gesneriad Society website several years ago. He remains the webmaster for the GRW, leading a team which provides the best source of information on the Gesneriaceae in the world. While not a frequent exhibitor in flower shows, Ron DID win Best In Show at the 2016 convention. He knows it was a fluke of timing, never likely to be repeated – a nice plant in peak condition at just the right time.
Ron’s talk in the “Intro” series at this convention will focus on the gesneriads suitable for beginners, whether growing indoors on windowsills or under lights, or outdoors on sheltered decks or in the garden. He will also highlight some of the more exotic species and cultivars to which new growers might reasonably aspire.
Mel Grice has been growing gesneriads for over 50 years and is the current President of The Gesneriad Society. He is the editor of Gleanings and Appraisal and the seed fund distribution person for the Gesneriad Hybridizers Association. He also authors “The Family Portrait” column in the African Violet Magazine (AVM) about gesneriads. Mel was a former librarian and loves to research information about gesneriads in order to make them happy.
Mel’s talk will share ideas for new growers to find information about gesneriads, get connected with knowledgeable people, obtain plants, and increase their collections.
Terri Vicenzi has taken the gesneriad world by storm over the past few years. Although a long-time African violet grower she is a latecomer to the broader Gesneriaceae and exhibited at her first convention only two years ago. But what an exhibition it was!
Her haul was spectacular – Runner up to Sweepstakes in Horticulture; Best Streptocarpus; Runner-up to Best in Horticulture; Best Gesneriad grown by a first-time conventioneer. All from 20 entries.
It was about ten years ago that Terri took a serious interest in cultivation of Streptocarpus and found that she could grow them better than she could grow her African violets. It was just at the time that many exotically beautiful streptocarpus hybrids were coming out of Eastern Europe, and it was exciting to grow these magnificent plants. It was through attending her first AVSA convention in 2015 that she became familiar with the broader Gesneriaceae, and she now is partial to Primulina and Smithiantha, in addition to Streptocarpus.
Terri has grown plants all her life, even while obtaining a Ph.D. in biochemistry and working in pharmaceutical development. She is passionate about sharing her love of Streptocarpus and other gesneriads, and is a contributing member to social media gesneriad sites and to AVSA and The Gesneriad Society.
Terri’s program in the virtual convention will focus on Streptocarpus, including her cultivation techniques and her approach to showing them. Of course, there will be many photos of her beautiful plants.
The Gesneriad Society’s Conservation Committee is co-chaired by Stephen Maciejewski and Jeremy Keene, both of whom have been much involved in international conservation activities for the Gesneriaceae.
The annual convention meeting of the Committee will feature a series of presentations on international conservation projects.
In addition to his role as co-chair of the Conservation Committee, Stephen Maciejewski is co-chair of the Student Convention Grant Committee and a co-founder of the Gesneriad Conservation Center of China. He is also a plant explorer, tour guide, nature writer and lecturer who has spoken throughout the United States, Canada, China, Vietnam and Cuba.
Do Van Truong, a botanist from the Vietnam National Museum of Nature in Hanoi, Vietnam, will present a program on the conservation of gesneriads in Vietnam and the future Begonia/Gesneriad Conservation Center of Vietnam (BGCCV). He has led numerous field trips into the wilds of Vietnam and has discovered many new plants.
Fang Wen will present an update on the Gesneriad Conservation Center of China (GCCC). He will report on the many changes at the center, including the creation of the new germplasm unit and the Commission for the Conservation of Gesneriads at the Guangxi Institute of Botany (GXIB/GCCC). He will also report on a new branch of the GCCC (Hunan Botanical Garden). Finally, he will talk about future seed production at the GCCC.
Jeremy Keene, Associate Professor of Biology at Glenville State College and co-chair of the Conservation Committee of The Gesneriad Society, will share information about the new Conservation Research Center he recently established at Glenville State.
Dale Martens, well known for hybridizing gesneriads, is the “Back to Basics” columnist for the Gesneriads journal. She was the long-time editor of the Gesneriad Hybridizers Association journal CrossWords, and is a frequent and successful exhibitor at flower shows. Over three decades, due to moving from state to state, she has grown gesneriads in quite a variety of conditions including hanging baskets under an apricot tree in the very low humidity city of Los Angeles.
Dale’s talk in the “Intro” series, “Gesneriads – Here, There and Everywhere”, will focus on how growers around the world grow various gesneriads, such as in natural window light, greenhouses, shade houses, artificial light and in the ground.
The Gesneriad Hybridizers Association’s 2021 program features beautiful photos of exciting gesneriad hybrids from around the world. The GHA program’s presenter, Dale Martens, is the Chairperson of GHA. For over 3 decades, Dale has introduced to the world a variety of new hybrids including Kohleria, Sinningia, Streptocarpus, Primulina, ×Achimenantha, Smithiantha, African violets, and Episcia.
Streptocarpus ‘Texas Hot Chili’ and all the variegated streptocarpus hybrids with “Ice” or “Iced” as well as “Polar” as alpha names are among her hybrids. During the last Gesneriad Society convention, she won Horticultural Sweepstakes for the most blue ribbons, and several of the entries were her own hybrids. GHA members receive a PDF newsletter called CrossWords three times a year for a low annual cost. With each informative CrossWords issue featuring hybridizers from around the world and their newest creations, the members are able to choose five packets of seeds for free.
Ruth Coulson is a long-time Australian grower and hybridizer of outstanding gesneriads. She began growing plants like Aeschynanthus, Columnea, Achimenes and Florist Gloxinias in the 1970s, without knowing that they were all called gesneriads. They were just more pretty plants to add to her burgeoning collection.
A few years later she developed a passion for Saintpaulia, and that subsequently introduced her to the world of gesneriads in all their glory, and to the friendship of many other growers of these plants. Soon she had gesneriads everywhere, in her shade house and in her home, and began successfully exhibiting her plants.
Her particular hybridizing interests were the mid-size Sinningias, but she tried her hand at many others. She achieved some spectacular successes. Her current growing focuses on Episcia which she grows indoors.
Ruth is a past President of the African Violet Association of Australia, the Central Coast African Violet Club and the Gesneriad Council of Australia and New Zealand. For many years she edited the AVAA new magazine The African Violet and has long been a member of the Gesneriad Society, attending several of its conventions.
Ruth’s presentation will focus on the challenges and pleasures of growing outstanding gesneriads in Australia, and on the people and plants she has encountered through her long and successful engagement with the Gesneriaceae.
Dr. David Middleton
David Middleton is a professional botanist with a long and productive career in Gesneriaceae research, focused on the genera and species in South-east Asia and in the Malaysian archipelago. He has collected and described several new genera such as Chayamaritia, Rachunia, Somrania and Tribounia, and many new species. A particular interest has been the genus Aeschynanthus, and he is perhaps the world authority on this genus.
David received his Ph.D. in 1989 from Aberdeen University in Scotland, and worked at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, the National Herbarium of the Netherlands in Leiden, and at the Harvard University Herbaria in Cambridge, Massachusetts. From 2004 he worked on Gesneriaceae at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in Scotland, with a particular focus on Aeschynanthus and on the broader Gesneriaceae for the Flora of Thailand.
In 2014 he was appointed as Director of Research and Conservation in the Singapore Botanic Gardens where he continues his research on Asian Gesneriaceae in collaboration with other researchers in the region and farther afield. He is the editor of The Gardens’ Bulletin, Singapore and The Flora of Singapore, and serves on the Boards of Thai Forest Bulletin (Botany), Flora of Thailand and Flora Malesiana.
David’s talk will provide an overview of the Gesneriaceae of South-east Asia and the Malay Archipelago, with particular focus on the plants he has seen and photographed in the field. He promises many beautiful pictures.
Student Convention Grant Recipients
Zhenglong Li from China is currently in a Master’s Program at Anhui University. Previously he worked at the Gesneriad Conservation Center of China in Guilin and at the eastern branch of the GCCC at Anhui University. He has discovered and published several new gesneriad species and is not only passionate about gesneriads but is deeply interested in ecology, taxonomy, and spreading information about gesneriad extinction.
Cintia Souza is a Brazilian PhD student at the University of São Paulo. Her research field is Botany, mainly Palynology (the study of pollen grains) and Palynotaxonomy of Gesneriaceae. She is investigating the diversity of pollen grains in this incredible plant family and intends to pursue an academic career researching Gesneriaceae.
Talita Bellonzi is a Brazilian biologist with interests in botany. Currently she is a PhD student in the graduate program of Comparative Biology at the University of São Paulo, specializing in Palynology research and Palyonotaxonomy of Gesneriaceae. In 2020, she received the Nellie D. Sleeth Scholarship Fund grant to work on her doctoral project.
Allan Pereira de Sousa is in a Master’s program studying Genetics and Plant Breeding at the University in São Paulo, Brazil. He also gives lectures and conducts workshops to promote science, technology, and innovation, focusing on the seeds of forest species. His research involves studying hybrid species of gesneriaceae, especially Sinningia speciosa. Allan is also working on plant morphology and palynology, and his dream is to pursue studies abroad and become a taxonomist.
Roland Ahmad from Indonesia is about to start his Master’s program at Tadulako University in Palu. This young explorer, botanist, and future taxonomist is also a conservationist and dreams of creating a sanctuary for plants collected during field trips to save the native and many still- undiscovered gesneriads of Sulawesi. The Elvin McDonald Research Endowment Fund Committee chose his winning proposal to receive their grant award for 2021.
Dr. Fang Wen
Dr. Fang Wen has an extensive history contributing to the discovery and collection of the Gesneriaceae of China and has engaged with critically important research underlying efforts to conserve this wonderful plant family. He has taken leadership roles with the Gesneriad Conservation Center of China (GCCC), China’s National Gesneriaceae Germplasm Resource Bank of the Guanxi Institute of Botany and with the Gesneriad Committee of the China Wild Plant Conservation Association. He is at the center of global activity related to the Gesneriaceae.
Dr. Wen was instrumental in the establishment of the GCCC, and in developing a partnership between the GCCC and The Gesneriad Society. His focus has been on documenting Chinese gesneriads, assessing conservation status of species and working to preserve habitat and protect endangered species.
As part of his work, Dr. Wen has engaged in numerous exploratory and collection field trips. He has documented many gesneriads in their natural habitat, photographing them and collecting plant material and seeds. His photographs of gesneriads in the field are remarkable, illustrating the great beauty of these plants.
As Research Director at Guilin Botanical Gardens, Dr. Wen has been responsible for growing many of the species collected from the wild, ensuring their continued survival even as natural habitats disappear. Many of the plants that he and his associates have grown have matured into remarkable specimens and have received numerous awards in the virtual flower show of The Gesneriad Society.
Dr. Wen’s presentation at the 2021 virtual convention will focus on the Gesneriads of China, a virtually unlimited topic – there are a very great many Chinese gesneriads! He will illustrate the often-spectacular natural habitats of the Chinese Gesneriaceae, as well as the beauty of individual plants in the wild and in cultivation. His talk will also touch on the conservation efforts needed to preserve gesneriad habitat and the actions of the GCCC and other institutions in China in support of this preservation.
Nathan Gazineu is a young botanical collector in Brazil, with more than 1700 plants in cultivation. He received the collection from a noted botanist who had collected many specimens for the first time, and all the plants have systematic information about their collection data, habitat and cultural requirements. Nathan has a particular interest in the Gesneriaceae, among other plant families, and is always seeking to increase his collection and his knowledge.
Nathan’s particular interest is the Atlantic rainforest in Rio de Janeiro state, as well as in adjacent areas to the south and west. His extensive gesneriad collection includes many species collected from these areas, with special emphasis on Sinningia and Nematanthus.
The focus of Nathan’s presentation will be on his collection, on photos of beautiful plants in their natural habitats and on discussion of the conservation status of many of these rare and beautiful species.
Serge Saliba is a Romanian hybridizer whose particular interest is in the rhizomatous gesneriads, especially Achimenes and xAchimenantha. He has made use of some of the most advanced hybridizing techniques to produce the spectacularly beautiful hybrids that have been distributed around the world.
He has also begun working to create miniatures in Sinningia and Kohleria, with stunning success. While not yet widely distributed, these plants have the potential to upend the world of gesneriad hybrids!
Serge was trained and received a master’s degree in Human Physiology. He has a long resume as a manager and CEO of companies, and has worked around the world, including for a time in the United States. More recently he has applied his business acumen to building a horticulture business centered around his gesneriad hybrids.
Serge’s talk will focus on his hybridizing work and on the beautiful creations that have come from that work. While the focus will be on the beautiful plants, he will touch on the innovative techniques that have led to his success.
Gesneriads in Tibet
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