2024 Convention – Convention Speakers

Gesneriads Meet in St. Louis

June 30 to July 6, 2024

Alain Chautems and Mauro Peixoto – “Forty Years of Brazilian Gesneriads”

Alain’s more than forty years of study of the Gesneriaceae in Brazil included some 25 trips from Switzerland to Brazil between 1983 and 2023. The initial focus was on Codonanthe and Nematanthus. The subsequent focus became the Sinningia alliance, including Sinningia, Paliavana and Vanhouttea, with lesser-known genera like Besleria, Gloxinia, Mandirola, Seemannia and Sphaerorrhiza getting later attention and revision. In the late 1990s Alain took up a position as curator at the Geneva Botanical Garden, and as part of grant-funded research took up molecular studies of the Gesneriaceae. As of 2016 he retired from his position at the Botanical Garden and became a Research Associate there, allowing him to continue pursuing botanical activities at a quieter pace.

Mauro Peixoto was part of the very first expedition in 1983, and a precious collaboration has continued to the present. His greenhouse facility and his excellent growing skills have allowed all the live material collected during field trips to end up in his unique collection that has contributed immensely to the study of Brazilian Gesneriaceae. Mauro has guided whole expeditions and given assistance to several trips organized with Brazilian botanists.

Their presentation will show highlights of these forty years of travels and discoveries mostly spent in the Atlantic forests wandering from seashores to tops of mountains, rocky outcrops, damp walls around waterfalls or cloud-forest trees covered with epiphytic species. Examples of the forty new species described in scientific publications will be included as well as recent discoveries of little known or still unnamed plants. An update on the systematic arrangement of the Sinningia group based on recent molecular research will also be unveiled. For sure, forty years of exploration was not enough to discover a megadiverse and huge country such as Brazil!

Panel Discussion – Growing Sinningias 

As a companion session to the presentation by Alain Chautems and Mauro Peixoto, we will have a four-person panel of experts discuss growing these wonderful plants. Each will present briefly on their conditions and growing strategies, leaving time for discussion, questions and answers.

Joel Egan came relatively recently to gesneriads, growing his first plants about 10 years ago after being introduced to them by his grandmother, who grew African Violets. Joel has a diploma in horticulture and a degree in evolutionary ecology, and has worked professionally as a horticulturist and propagator for commercial greenhouses. He grows a wide variety of gesneriads but particularly likes growing Sinningia species and a wide variety of the miniature Sinningia species and hybrids.

Betsy Gottshall was introduced to microminiature sinningias in 1992 at an AVSA Society show and was in instant love. This led her to join the African Violet Society and then the Liberty Bell Gesneriad Society where she fell in love with ALL the different gesneriads. She soon was growing primulinas, alsobias, achimenes, kohlerias, petrocosmeas and many others. The micro-miniature sinningias remain her true love, though, and now that she has been growing them for 30+ years, she is a seasoned expert.

Alan LaVergne has studied and grown sinningias for many years and is the proprietor of Sinningia and Friends. He is also co-editor for the genus on the Gesneriad Reference Web, and co-author of a substantial article there (https://gesneriads.info/articles/thesinningiaalliance/thesinningiaalliance/). A specialist on species, especially larger-growing species, he has broad experience growing plants inside and outside.

Peter Shalit is the editor of Gesneriads and in 2023 gave the GHA presentation at convention on his Sinningia hybridizing program. He has been growing gesneriads for countless years (he started very young!) and is particularly experienced with sinningias. He has grown all the growth forms with success but has specialized lately in the mid-size species and their hybrids. He grows everything very well, if not to perfection.

Kimberly Hansen – “On the Kohleria Trail: Finding, Studying and Understanding These Beautiful Species

Kimberly Hansen is currently collections manager for flowering plants at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago where she is responsible for almost three million specimens in the herbarium. Her interest in Kohleria flowed from her work on the phylogenetics of the Campanulaceae in the Atacama Desert of Chile and subsequent travels in the northern Andes. Her research involved extensive fieldwork in Colombia, Ecuador and Central America through Mexico, the entire natural range of Kohleria. Kimberly’s talk will focus on her taxonomic work with Kohleria, including past and current natural hybridization and the description of new species, as well as the biogeography of the genus. Her presentation will be illustrated by photos of Kohleria species and habitat from throughout its range, and by stories about her experiences during this epic adventure.

Brandon Erikson – “Kohleria – The Most Beautiful Weed”
For anyone who has ever seen a “Bud’s” cultivar in a show – these were created by Brandon Erikson: hobby hybridizer, expert grower, and multiple award winner at the highest levels of convention.  He has experience with dozens of genera but is best known for his work with Kohleria. Taming of this “weed” can sometimes be difficult, but Brandon makes it look easy. He will walk us through his process: proper lighting (without breaking the bank), how to keep the plants from getting leggy, soil-less mix, watering, fertilizing, getting plants ready for a show – basically how to maximize the potential of this humble little “weed.” He will also discuss various ways to propagate kohlerias – whether they are wildly successful or a little less so.  Finally, Brandon will visit where kohlerias are going on the hybridizing front – the new cultivars are starting to really show the range of this genus.  Brandon is more than happy to “spill the tea” on this most beautiful “weed” and how to achieve success whether it be for simple blooming pleasure – or for growing an award-winning specimen.

Refer to our 1Q24 journal for more detailed information.