As The African Violet Story Unfolded.....
(Sections quoted from The Colourful World of African Violets by A.G.W. Simpson)
"Walter von Saint Paul sent a collection of African Violets to his father, the Baron von Saint Paul, who owned estates on German Upper Silesia. We must assume that the baron had glasshouses, as that German province is one of the coldest parts of Germany. Baron von Saint Paul was intriqued by the plants and sent part of his collection to Herr Herman Wendland, at that time director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Herrenhausen."
"....giving the generic name of Saintpaulia meant that Herr Wendland also had to give it a specie name as well, and when he studied the plant he saw that the most characteristic part was its violet blue flower. Thus he called it ionantha. "Ion" is Greek for violet and "antha" means flowering. Thus we have the descriptive name of "Violet-flowering Saintpaulis", or Saintpaulia ionantha."
"The original African violet found growing in Tanganyika was Saintpaulia ionantha. Saintpaulia confusa, another specie, was also found. Once the specie S. ionantha was crossed with the specie S. confusa a range of plants was produced which are known as "varieties", or more correctly, "cultivars". Varieties are bred by nature in the wild, whereas cultivars are bred by man. Modern cultivars are Blue Boy, Amethyst, Sweetheart Blue and many more."
"...We are told that von Saint Paul sent more than one species of African Violet to his father. Two species for sure were S. ionantha and S. confusa. therefore from those humble beginnings Suttons and Ernst Benary developed their various cultivars."
"Armcost and Royston, a famous Californian grower, imported hybrid seed from Suttons (UK) and Ernst Benary (Germany) and bred them on. and from more than 1000 seedlings, they could select only 10 good cultivatars. They were Admiral, Amethyst, Blue boy, Commodore, Mermaid, Neptune, Norseman, Sailor Boy, Viking, and No. 32. ...."
"In 1939 a gentleman named Ed Wangbickler was sorting through a batch of African Violets he had grown, when, clustered in a group of Blue Boy, he saw a strange mutation. It was a beautiful double blue...."
"...In 1940 the famous nursery of Holton and Hunkel was sorting through a batch of Blue Boy, and there, standing like a beacon in a blue night, was the first recorded single clear pink...."
"We are still in the '40's. Peter Ruggeri discovered and grew a white culivar, which he named White Lady."
"....The Fischeer Greenhouses produced a ruffled flower known as the Fringette Series. The DuPont strain with its begonia-like leaves appeared. The Fantasy types with their "splashed" petals made a great impact. And the Rhapsodies, with their elegant habit and extravagant floral abundance, took the African Violet world by storm."
"In 1954 a gentleman named Lyndon Lyon exhibited four African Violets at the National African Violet Show in Saint Louis. It triggered off great excitement. Why? The plants were the first elusive double pinks. And one in particular which caused quite a stir was Ohio Beautiful."
(The following is adapted from an AVM article in the Jan/Feb 2003 issue written by Dr. Jeff Smith, entitled 'Thank Goodness for Sports'. Includes photos and info regarding Janet Stromborg's recent series of sports. Please read it, it is interesting!)
Table 2. Important Sports or Mutations in African Violets
Double Flowers 1939 Mutant of 'Blue Boy'
Pink Flowers 1940 Mutant of 'Blue Boy'
Girl Foliage 1941 Mutant of 'Blue Boy'
Fantasy Flowers 1949
Geneva Edges 1950
Star-Shaped Flowers 1952
Fringed Flowers 1953
Bustled Foliage 1957
"Tommie Lou" 1959 Found as a sport of 'White Pride'
Varigation is on leaf edges.
"Lillian Jarrett" or 1961 Found in a sport of 'Lilian Jarrett'
Varigation is the center areas of the leaf blade.
Coral Pigments 1963
Yellow Flowers 1989