Smithiantha is a small genus in the family Gesneriaceae. There are 7-9 species and a few natural hybrids have been recorded. In the last decade or so, a number of hybrids have been introduced and more are available each year. The whole genus is distributed in southern Mexico, mostly in the state of Oaxaca. Plants produce pubescent leaves that tend to be brittle. In the wild, plants probably follow the natural rain cycle typical of Mexico, with moist summer and dry winters. The underground storage organs are scaly rhizomes, similar to other scaly rhizomatous New World genera. In cultivation, plants behave differently depending on local climate. In places with hot summers, plants tend to grow in late summer and continue throughout winter through spring. Flowers may appear between late fall and spring. In places with mild temperatures year round, plants may behave more as if in habitat. In general, the genus does not require a lot of light. It is said that they need decent humidity and constantly moist but well-drained soils during the growing season to perform well.
For hybrids with this genus, see Smithiantha Hybrids.
Smithiantha cinnabarina is widely grown for its attractive foliage that can produce maroon-colored hairs when exposed to proper light. The flowers are just as attractive when well-grown. The photos below were taken by Nhu Nguyen.
Smithiantha multiflora is native to Oxaca, Mexico. It produces a spike of white flowers with a yellow throat. The photo below was taken by Nhu Nguyen.
Smithiantha zebrina is native to Mexico. It is one more of the more common species in cultivation. Photos 1-2 were taken by Nhu Nguyen and photos 3-4 were taken by J. Schofield of a different clone. The last photo shows a young plant with its rhizome still attached.