Problem: When I look up a species clone, the name and description at the right are different. Is this a mistake?

No, this is not a mistake, but the explanation is a long one.

The African Violet Society of America is the International Cultivar Registration Authority (ICRA) for the genus Saintpaulia.* Notice the word 'cultivar.' We have no authority over the naming of the species. That is generally done through research (based upon similarities in structure and DNA) by botanists. Recent research has suggested that there are only nine species of Saintpaulia: brevipilosa, goetzeana, inconspicua, ionantha, nitida, pusila, rupicola, shumensis, and teitensis. The species ionantha is further divided into eight subspecies: grandifolia, grotei, ionantha, mafiensis, occidentalis, orbicularis, pendula, and velutina. In addition, the subspecies ionantha (S. ionantha subsp. ionantha) is divided into two varieties: diplotricha and ionantha. While there are a few different conclusions from other research, the above is what the African Violet Society of America has accepted as the new arrangement of the species.

While a Chihuahua and a St. Bernard both belong to the same subspecies (Canis lupus subsp. familiaris), they are obviously quite different in appearance. The same is true of African violets. There are different clones of the same species (or subspecies or variety) that are different in appearance from each other. AVSA has decided to preserve the different clone identities and identify them as such by appending the prefix 'clone' in front of the name (e.g S. clone dificilis).

Now let's address the apparent contradictions in the listing of the species in First Class. Dr. Jeff Smith was kind enough to write descriptions for the 17 species, subspecies, and varieties. However, as of now nobody has come forward to write descriptions for the 68 different clones of those species, subspecies, and varieties. Therefore, when you click on the clone name, on the right is displayed the species (and subspecies and variety, if applicable) to which the clone belongs. The descriptions are those of the species, not of the clones. The descriptions are general, and they cover the range of characteristics particular to that species. I hope that in the future we can come up with specific descriptions for each of the clones. Until then, however, this is the procedure that we will use in First Class.

For example, what used to be called S. dificilis has now been reclassified as S. ionantha subsp. grotei. Since there is no more S. dificilis, we preserve its identity by calling it S. clone dificilis, as it is a clone of S. ionantha subsp. grotei. When you click on the clone name (S. clone dificilis), the name and description for S. ionantha subsp. grotei is displayed at the right. If we have a photo of the clone, that will be displayed on the right.

*UPDATE January 2017: Recently the genus Saintpaulia has been reclassified, and is no longer a genus. It is a section under Streptocarpella, which is a subgenus under the genus Streptocarpus. In other words, Saintpaulias are now Streptocarpus. However, AVSA will continue to be the ICRA for Saintpaulia, while the Gesneriad Society will continue to be the ICRA for all other gesneriads.

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