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Class: 15

AVSA 75th Anniversary Special Exhibits
African Violet Origins and Evolution

Going back almost 129 years ago to 1892, when the internet did not exist and information was not as well preserved as today. The earlier years of this timeline depended on what was written down and passed on.

The plant with a violet like flower left quite an impression on the a German district commissioner in Tanganyika, so much that he sent some seeds back to his father. This is the beginnings of the plant identified with the name of the flower’s genus, Saintpaulia or what is more commonly known as the African violet.

  • 1892

    Discovery of the Saintpaulia

    00 Saint Paul Illaire

    Baron Walter von Saint Paul-Illaire found a violet like plant growing in the Usambara Mountains.

  • 1893

    Seeds sent to Germany

    The first commercially produced plants were offered in by Friedrich in Erfurt, Germany.

  • 1894

    African Violets arrived in New York!

    Due to the cold weather it did not survive and earned a reputation of being difficult to grow.

  • 1926

    Seed sent to Los Angeles U.S.A.

    1926 Walter L Armacost 1

    Armacost & Royston, Los Angeles, import seeds from Benary in Germany and Sutton in England.  Walter L. Armacost, president and general manager at that time worked with  Mr Bracey and Mr Oertel to a strict elimination plan to come up with the 10 varieties that have goods growth habits, character of the foliage, colors and good blooming qualities out of about 1000 plants.

  • 1935

    Original Ten African Violets Introduced in the U.S.A

    The selected 10, Admiral, Amethyst, Blue Boy, Commodore, Mermaid, Neptune, Norseman, Sailor Boy, Viking and #32 was placed on the market in 1936, it was not just the U.S.A. but also in South America, Australia, Canada and many European countries.

    1935 6 Early Varieties MF

    Saintpaulias in a strawberry jar. Varieties in flower: top, rear, Blue Boy; front, Double Blue Boy; left, Lady Geneva; center, Redhead Supreme; right, Amazon Pink above Periwinkle.

    Source of photo is from the book “All about African Violets – The Complete Guide to Success with Saintpaulias” by Montague Free

  • 1939

    First Double Blossom

    “Double Duchess” a mutant of Blue Boy from hybridizer E. Wangbichler was noted in the AVM. The first register double blossom is “Lady Catherine” (#320) was registered by hybridizer V. Davis on July 20, 1949.

  • 1940

    First Pink Blossom

    “Pink Beauty” from hybridizer F. Brockner. At that time African violets were not yet registered, as the Master Violet List (MVL) did not exist. He did however patented it under Patent #514, on 1942-05-05, which means if you wanted to propagate and sell Pink Beauty you would need to purchase Pink Beauty tags to be place on each plant being sold. This patent lasted 17 years.

    Other Pink blossoms introduced before 1948 are”Dainty Maid from hybridizer R. Brown, Amazon Pink from hybridizer Armacost & Royston and Pink Girl from hybridizer R. Baxter, which are listed in the MVL with the registration AVS48.

  • 1941

    First Girl Foliage

    1942 Blue Girl AVM

    Girl foliage is a leaf with a scalloped edge and a white or yellow marking at the base of each leaf. It has nothing to do with the sex of the plant.

    “Blue Girl” was not registered in the MVL, but is listed under AVS48. Mr. and Mrs. Public of Ulery Greenhouses however patented “Blue Girl” (Patent #535),  in 1942-07-28 .

  • 1942

    First White Blossom

    “White Lady” was not registered in MVL but is listed as AVS48. Hybridizer Peter Ruggeri of Silver Terrace Nursey patented “White Lady” (patent #597) in 1943-08-03.

  • 1946


    1947 Pre AVSA 1

    In response to a small notice about the formation of the African Violet Society of America in the February, 1947, Better Homes and Gardens, Alma Wright as secretary received thousand of letters from African violet people who wished to join the society. Left to right, Alma Wright, Mary Parker.

  • 1946

    First AVSA Show

    1st AVSA Show 1

    November 8, 1946, The African Violet Society of America (AVSA) is organized in the Hasting Show Room in Atlanta Georgia. Thirty-four cultivars were entered in the first African Violet Show in Atlanta Georgia.

    The Master Variety List (MVL) of the species and cultivars was started and the bi-monthly African Violet Magazine (AVM) was published.

  • 1947

    AVSA Incorporation

    AVSA was incorporated in June 30, 1947. It is now a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation with an office in Beaumont, Texas simply dedicated to the culture of African violets.

  • 1947

    First Red Blossom

    Both “Redhead” from hybridizer Merkel and “Redland” from hybridizer V. Starr are listed under AVS48 in the MVL with the first red blossoms.

  • 1947

    First Crown Variegated Foliage

    Crown variegation is when the color of the new leaves in the center of the crown are variegated with a lighter color such as white, pink or yellow. As it gets more mature the leaves become more green. This first appear in 1947.

    “Silver Flute” from hybridizer E. Champion was registered  as #833 in November 08, 1956 as variegated without the word crown, it is said to be the first crown variegation.

  • 1949

    First Fantasy Blossom

    “Fantasy” (#217) was registered by hybridizer R. Behnke/Naylor on December 05,1949.

  • 1949

    The First Semi-miniature

    “Lady Catherine” (#320) was registered by hybridizer V. Davis on July 20, 1949.

  • 1949

    First Frilled Blossom

    “Luana” (#351) was registered by hybridizer J. Furnish on July 05, 1949.

  • 1949

    First Ruffled Blossom

    1949 Fringed MF

    “Ruffled White” (#560) was registered by hybridizer Good & Reese on December 01, 1949.

  • 1950

    First Geneva Edge Blossom

    1950 Lady Geneva

    “Lady Geneva” first appeared in 1950 with the white edge, which the term Geneva edge is used to describe a blossoms with a white edge. “Lady Geneva” is not registered or listed in the MVL.

    “Queen Geneva” (#501) was registered by hybridizer O. Silcott on August 01, 1951.

  • 1950

    The first African Violet Handbook for Judges and Exhibitors

    Ruth G. Carey wrote the first “African Violet Handbook for Judges and Exhibitors,” which was adopted by the AVSA Executive Board on May 13, 1950. In 1977 she assigned the copyright to the African Violet Society of America, Inc., since that time it has been revised by an AVSA Committee. In 1981 the title was changed to “the African Violet Society of America Handbook for Growers, Exhibitors and Judges.”

  • 1950

    The First Miniature

    A variety of African violet that when fully mature is between 6 inches and 3 inches in diameter is listed with the type of miniature. in the MVL.

    “Diane” (#172) was registered by hybridizer Anderson on August 14, 1950. Others that followed are ” Miss Liberty” (#385) was registered by hybridizer F. Tinari on April 29, 1951 and “Little Geneva Princess” (#342) was registered by hybridizer R. Baxter on November 02, 1952.

  • 1952

    First Variegation

    “Marvin’s Silver Girl” (#692) was registered by hybridizer Marvin on January 26, 1952.

  • 1952

    First Coral Blossom

    “All Aglow” (#7) was registered by hybridizer Behnke on May 10, 1952.

  • 1952

    First Star Blossom

    “Purple Star”, no information available and “Star Sapphire” from Robert Craig Co., PA, also with no information were first Star Flowers.

    “Blue Sensation” (#780) was registered by hybridizer Graham on May 15, 1955.

  • 1953

    First Bell Blossom

    “Blue Buttercup” (#42) was registered by hybridizer Fischer on March 23, 1953.

  • 1954

    Double Delight

    1954 Double Delight AVM

    Mrs. Hotchkiss and Mrs. Anderson admire the outstanding specimen of “Double Delight” entered in the 1954 St Louis Show by Mrs. Hotchkiss.

  • 1954

    First Pink Double Blossom

    The 1954 convention in St Louis was much  anticipated for the big news of “Double Pinks” from not just one but eight new introductions. 1 from Fischers, 2 from Ulerys and 5 from Tonkadales Greenhouse, who was exhibiting for the first time as a commercial. Tonkadale took the blue rribbon for Double Pink, Ulery took the Red ribbon for their Double Pink and Fische took the white ribbon for Pink Fringette.

    Later in the year,”Double Pink Cheer” (#186), Double Pink cloud (#187), double Pink Puff (#188), were registered by hybridizer L. Lyon on October 29, 1954.

  • 1954

    First Trailing African Violet

    “Tinari’s Geneva Trailer (625)was registered by F Tinari on December 31, 1954.

  • 1955

    First Green Edged Blossom

    “T-V Cut Velvet” (#717) was registered by hybridizer M. Vallin on November 25, 1955.

  • 1956

    First Cupped Blossom

    “Frilled Blue Lace” (#806) was registered by hybridizer M. Rand on September 01, 1956.

  • 1957

    First Wasp Blossom and Bustle-back Foliage

    1964 Spootnik FC

    In 1957, Jimmy Dates received a plant named “Bustles” from Mrs. Hotchkiss of Peoria, Illinois. This sport showed up from a pan of ”Prince Purple” leaves. It is from this plant that Jimmy continued to introduce 60 new varieties of which 8 with wasp-type blossom and bustled leaves. . Two were introduced in 1964 “Pink Wasp” and “Spooknik” (#1498) was registered by hybridizer A. Dates on November 30, 1964.

  • 1958

    First Tommie Lou Variegated Foliage

    1967 Tommie Lou FC

    “Tommie Lou” (#1744) was registered by hybridizer T. Oden on October 25, 1967.

  • 1961

    First Mosaic Variegated Foliage

    “”Lilian Jarrett” (#2902) was registered by hybridizer (F. Tinari) on September 28, 1989.

  • 1963

    First Coral Blossom

    “Coral Satin” (#1536) was registered by hybridized on August 6,1965.

  • 1965

    First Green Blossom

    “Pat’s Pet” (#1550) was registered by hybridizer L. Lyon on September 13, 1965.

  • 1973

    First Standard Trailer

    1973 Violet Trail FC

    “Violet Trail” (#2468) was registered by hybridizer L. Lyon on August 15, 1973.

  • 1974

    First Mini Trailer

    1974 Pixie Blue

    Pixie Blue

    1974 Pixie Pink FC

    Pixie Pink

    “Pixie Blue” (#2598) and “Pixie Pink” (#2599) was registered by hybridizer L. Lyon on September 16, 1974.

  • 1978

    First Variegated Trailer

    “Blue Star Lou” (#3302) was registered by hybridizer H. Rienhardt on January 23, 1978.

  • 1979

    First Semi-miniature Trailer

    1979 Cirelda FC

    “Cirelda” (#3620) was registered by hybridizer P. Tracy on March 01, 1979.

  • 1979

    First Micro-miniature

    1979 Pip Squeek

    “Pip Squeek (#3603) was registered by hybridizer L. Lyon on February 6, 1979. The world’s smallest African violet in Snoopy’s hat, arrangement and photo by Lyndon Lyon

  • 1980

    First Chimera Blossom

    1980 Grangers Desert Dawn FC

    “Granger’s Desert Dawn” (#4050) and ” Granger’s Valencia” (#4051) were registered by hybridizer Eyedom on September 15, 1980.

  • 1980

    First Thumbprint Blossom

    1980 Melodie Kimi FC

    In AVM, “The earliest thumbprint I remember seeing was ‘Melodie Kimi’ which we first saw in 1980 at the New Orleans convention. It was not registered until much later but it was a showstopper at that time. Joyce”

    “Melodie Kimi” (#8100) was registered by hybridizer Sunnyside/Levy on September 15, 1994. The thumbprint trait is not searchable in First Class.

  • 1984

    Space Violets

    1984 Optimara Everglades FC

    25,000 Optimara seeds were launched into space aboard NASA’s space shuttles. The seeds were intended to be in space for 6 months, but they remained orbiting the earth for nearly six years. One mutation is that the Optimara violets has an abundance of flowers which never stop blooming. The series of varieties with the names beginning “Optimara Ever” was cultivated from the space seeds. “Optimara Everglades” was the first of the Optimara Ever series registered by Holtkamp on April 11, 1990.

  • 1991

    First Russian Varieties

    1991Belye Nochi FC

    “Belye Nochi” (#9496) was registered by hybridizer E. Arkhipov in December 05,2005.

    This was the start of selection based on the large blossoms, unusual markings, showy traits and intense color of the blossoms.

  • 1992

    First Yellow Blossom

    1992 yellow

    “His Promise” was hybridized by N. Blansit in 1992.

  • 1997

    First Chimera Variegated Foliage

    1997 Robs Lucky Penny 2

    “Rob’s Lucky Penny” (#8611) was registered by hybridizer R. Robinson on May 31, 1997.

  • 2001

    First No-Petals

    Botanika Violet Barn

    Photo from Violet Barn

    Saintpaulia ‘Botanika’ an evolution mutation, where the petals developed into partial stamens, and yellow anther sacs on the edge of the lower petals. This variety first appeared in England prior to 2000 and was introduced to Germany thru the Dutch flower market. Angelika Richter in Mannheim, Germany, the Pflanzen-Beier Greenhouse in November, 2000, knowing Saintpaulia ‘Botanika’ was something special, shared a post with a picture on the web.

    With the close examination by Jeff Smith, it was determined that the petals were developed into partial stamens and yellow anthers (pollen sacks) on the edge of the lower petals. This heavy bloomer with virtually no petals just clusters of the bright yellow anthers has not been registered with AVSA.

  • 2006

    Revision of the Species

    New emphasis on the original species, this has been a growing trend beginning in the 1980’s but reaching peak after the Darbyshire revision of 2006 which reduced the number of species to a smaller group than before.

  • 2005

    Oddities in Evolution

    Optimara NeverFloris

    Photo from Selective Gardener

    ‘Optimara NeverFloris’ an African violet with beautiful green leaves and hundreds of green blossom buds that does not open was develop by the Holtkamp research center in Germany. The idea is to have a rich texture base for floral designs, performing like foliage that is lasting for many months.

    This avant-garde plant received the prestigious “Rabensteiner Award” for the “Best Marketable Plant Novelty for 2009” in Germany. “Optimara NeverFloris” was never registered by the Holtkamp.

  • 2020

    New Types of Variegated Foliage

    Spontaneous variegated foliage consist of random patches of light and dark green is seen in Optimara Loyality and Optimara Charity.

    Cosmic variegated foliage with light yellow spots of different sizes in the leaves is seen in Cosmic Fairy.

    Both new type can be reproduced consistently and is stable under most growing conditions.

  • 2021


    This timeline is based off of Dr. Jeff Smith’s article “AVSA 75th Anniversary: African Violets First” in the AVM January-February 2021, Volume 74 Number #1.

    Photos are extracted from African Violet magazines in the Biodiversity Heritage Library or the Firstclass database, unless otherwise noted.