Monsoon House

In order to grow in the monsoon climate, plants have to withstand long periods of drought and of heavy rain. Many plants flower at the end of the dry season, so that their fruits ripen in time for the rainy season and the seeds can germinate under the best conditions. 

Here, different species of titan arum plants are displayed, from the large collection of 34 species cultivated at the Botanic Gardens. They are very different in size and appearance, but all share the pungent smell with which they attract pollinators.  

Gesneriads belong to a very large plant family that includes more than 150 genera with more than 3,500 species. They are widely distributed. We know the varieties of some species as ornamental plants, such as the African violet (Saintpaulia ionantha, not a real violet) and the Brazilian gloxinia (Sinningia speciosa).

Representatives of the large family of cycads, distant relatives of conifers within the gymnosperms, also thrive in the monsoon house.

A treasure in the Monsoon House: Sinningia helleri

Sinningia helleri was first described by Nees von Esenbeck in 1825. He named the plant "Sinningia" in honor of his head gardener Wilhelm Sinning, together with whom he established the Botanic Garden in Bonn. With the addition "helleri" he thanked the court gardener Heller from Würzburg, from whom he had received the plant in 1824.

Originally, Sinningia was native to the coastal rainforests of Brazil. Due to its beautiful flowers, it was quickly cultivated. Since 1909, however, Sinningia helleri had not been mentioned anymore, neither in Europe nor in its native Brazil. It was assumed to be extinct. In 2015, a small population was rediscovered in Brazil. A significant event, because this rare species is the reference species, a.k.a. the type species, of the genus Sinningia.

In 2018, the Bonn Botanic Gardens managed to obtain a specimen of this plant and to harvest seeds. Thus, there are new plants here, while Sinningia helleri seems to have ultimately become extinct at the original site in Brazil.

Sinningia helleri © C. Löhne / Universität Bonn
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