Question: This is a question about the 'hybrid' status of most of the African violets available today? Are the African violet hybrids today just hybrids of the species Saintpaulia ionantha or have other species been used to add to the modern day hybrids? Are they hybrids between the same species or of different species?
Answer: Many of the current hybrids originated from crosses made with Saintpaulia ionantha and with S. confusa (now considered to be a subspecies of S. ionantha). Recently DNA studies established that many species previously identified as separate species were in fact all subspecies of S. ionantha. Three years ago we claimed 20-30 species and today we claim just nine. There are several hybridizers, most notably Jeff Smith of Indiana, who continues to make a large number of crosses using the species. If you are interested in the species and early development of violet hybrids, you might find a new DVD program called "Understanding the African Violet Species" useful. It is a two-disk set available from the AVSA office in Beaumont TX ( 409-839-4725) which was just released last week. I believe the price is $29.95, and it is well worth it. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork