Most species in the Gloxiniinae produce scaly rhizomes, which serve as both storage organs allowing the plant to survive dry seasons and as mechanisms allowing the spread of the plants into substantial colonies. A few species are known to produce no rhizomes, and these are specifically identified below. Failure to mention rhizomes should not be construed as indicating that there aren’t any.
Achimenes is a well-known and widely grown genus which has not been affected by recent taxonomic changes. Species are terrestrial herbs with scaly rhizomes, and stems are unbranched, and may be erect or decumbent (trailing). Achimenes is distributed from Mexico through Central America, with some presence in the Caribbean and northern South America.
Amalophyllon is a genus of generally small and low-growing herbs with scaly rhizomes, often found in moist and humid environments near the mouths of caves, or beside streams and rivers. A number of species previously classified in Phinaea have recently been transferred to Amalophyllon. This genus is becoming quite widely grown by hobbyists, as the foliage and small white flowers are attractive, and it is fairly easy to grow in moderately protected environments.
Chautemsia was recently created to accommodate a single Brazilian species with scaly rhizomes, Chautemsia calcicola. It is seen as allied to, but quite separate from, Mandirola, Goyazia and possibly Gloxiniopsis. It is an attractive plant that has entered cultivation and is getting more widely distributed.
Diastema has a number of species all of which are small, terrestrial, rhizomatous herbs growing in moist locations in tropical forests, often near water. Flowers are usually white, often with purple markings, although at least one species, D. comiferum, has bright red flowers. It is widely distributed through southern Mexico and Central America, with the largest number of species in northern South America. Several species are in wide cultivation.
Eucodonia was once thought to be allied to Achimenes, but is now understood to be quite a distinct and well-defined genus with only two variable species, E. verticillata and E. andrieuxii. Like most members of Gloxiniinae, it has scaly rhizomes. Its natural distribution is limited to Central and South America, but it is widely grown and valued for both its flowers and its beautiful foliage.
Gloxinella includes but one species, G. lindeniana, which has historically been included in both Gloxinia and Kohleria. Molecular work has demonstrated that it is not closely related to either of those genera. G. lindeniana is more closely related to Monopyle, and it has a Monopyle-like fruit.
Gloxinia is now restricted to just three species, two of which were until recently classified in other genera: G. perennis, G. erinoides (formerly Koellikera), and G. xanthophylla (formerly Anodiscus). These three species together make Gloxinia a well-defined group of species whose flowers are produced on racemes, a character found in just a few other genera in the sub-tribe (e.g. Smithiantha). All three species have flowers that suggest insect pollination, and both G. perennis and G. erinoides have fragrant flowers, an unusual characteristic in this sub-tribe. All other species once within Gloxinia have been transferred to other genera; one species (G. reflexa) to Monopyle, four to the resurrected genus Seemannia, three to the resurrected genus Mandirola, and the rest to the new genera Gloxinella, Gloxiniopsis, Nomopyle and Sphaerorrhiza. Gloxinia is primarily an Andean genus, although G. perennis is widely cultivated and naturalized outside the Andes, and the range of G. erinoides extends into Central America to Costa Rica.
Gloxiniopsis includes one species, G. racemosa (formerly Gloxinia racemosa). Although superficially very similar to Gloxinia perennis, Gloxiniopsis racemosa is not closely related to Gloxinia or any other genus in the tripe. The flowers are produced in a raceme like that of G. perennis, but the fruit is more like that of a Monopyle species. the species is found in the Andes of Colombia.
Goyazia is rhizomatous genus of two species. As a Brazilian genus, it is an outlier among the Gloxiniinae, which are primarily Central American with extension into northern South America. Goyazia seems to be most closely related to Moussonia and Gloxinia. It grows on damp and mossy rocks, and is dormant in winter.
Heppiella is a genus of four species found in Peru and and Western Venezuela. It grows on damp and mossy rocks, occasionally at the base of trees. The species are herbaceous but somewhat shrubby. Flowers are mostly reddish, and bird pollinated. Not in wide cultivation.
Kohleria is one of the best-known genera of Gloxiniinae, and has been in wide cultivation for more than 150 years. It has often-spectacular brightly colored and spotted flowers, and some forms have attractively marked and patterned foliage. Species formerly included in Capanea have been transferred into Kohleria based on DNA studies. Species are distributed from Mexico through to Venezuala, Colombia and the Guianas, with a presence if parts of the Caribbean.
Mandirola, an old name, has been resurrected to include three Brazilian species formerly included in Gloxinia: G. ichthyostoma, G. multiflora, and G. rupestris. Only the first of these appears to be in wide cultivation. The species are very similar to some Achimenes species and were once included in that genus. Mandirola is more closely related to the distinctive Brazilian genus Goyazia than to Gloxinia, and although both groups are closely related to Gloxinia, they differ from that genus in many ways and have thus been maintained as distinct genera.
Monopyle species are terrestrial plants growing in wet shady places in forests, from lowlands to montane forests. They are distributed from Bolivia in northern South America to Guatemala in Central America. Leaves are strongly anisophyllous (with one of each pair much reduced in size), a diagnostic character. Flowers are open and campanulate (bell-shaped), and often have dramatic and attractive markings. It is thought that the pollinators may be fragrance-seeking male euglossine bees.
Moussonia is unusual in the Gloxiniinae in that it does NOT have scaly rhizomes, but has nonetheless been shown to belong in this grouping. The plants are relatively sturdy upright herbs, sometimes large enough to be considered sub-shrubs, with attractive often brightly colored (red, orange, yellow) flowers. Distribution is from Mexico to Panama in Central America, in damp forests. The species were once included in Kohleria, but were separated from that genus on the basis of morphological factors, with subsequent molecular analysis supporting the separation.
Niphaea species are small herbs of damp and shady places in its range in southern Mexico and Guatemala. The leaves are often substantial, and may be lightly patterned purple. Flowers are relatively shallow and broad, usually white. Niphaea is similar in some respects of Phinaea and Amalophyllon, but its separation from those genera has been supported by recent genetic analysis.
Nomopyle is a new genus created for two species, N. dodsonii (formerly Gloxinia dodsonii) and N. peruviana (formerly Niphaea peruviana) from Ecuador and Peru, respectively. Both species have fruits very similar to those of Monopyle and they are closely related to that genus. Only N. dodsonii is in cultivation; this species requires low light, high humidity and constant moisture. Like Moussonia, it is one of the few members of this sub-tribe without scaly rhizomes. It is not in wide cultivation.
Pearcea was originally described as a monotypic genus; a second species was later added by Mansfeld (1936). Subsequent analysis led to an expansion to 17 species by the inclusion of Parakohleria, a few species of Kohleria and the description of new species. Conspicuous is the range of flower shapes, including the practically spherical flowers of P. hypocyrtiflora. It is distributed primarily in Northern South America, in the eastern Andean slopes and adjacent lowlands from N Colombia through Ecuador and Peru to NW Bolivia. P. hypocyrtiflora is in wide cultivation appreciated for its beautiful foliage as well as its peculiar flowers.
Phinaea are small terrestrial herbs with scaly rhizomes. It was was recently taxonomically redefined and reduced to 2 or 3 species, while the remaining species were included in the re-established genus Amalophyllon. The two core species of Phinaea are P. albolineata (with characteristic silvery veins) and P. multiflora. In habit and flower characters Phinaea and Amalophyllon are very similar. Both species are in wide cultivation.
Seemannia has been resurrected for four former Gloxinia species: S. gymnostoma, S. nemanthodes, S. purpurascens and S. sylvatica. Seemannia was recognized as a valid genus in the 1890s until it was synonymized under Gloxinia in the 1970s. There is no doubt that Seemannia and Gloxinia are close relatives, but the two groups are different in many ways and botanists have chosen to treat them as two closely related but well-defined separate genera. It is an almost exclusively Andean genus, with the greatest concentration of species in Bolivia, northern Argentina and Southern Peru. Flowers are colorful, often red or pink, and the genus is in wide cultivation.
Smithiantha is a genus of terrestrial perennial plants, with relatively large and stubby scaly rhizomes. The stems are erect, the leaves often plushly hairy and attractively colored or marked. The flowers are produced in a terminal raceme, and are often large and showy, in colors ranging from red to orange and sometimes yellow, and with a variety of darker markings. It is distributed from Mexico to Guatemala, in forest habitats in the mountains, and is seasonally dormant. It has long been in cultivation as a desirable ornamental, and many cultivars have been produced.
Solenophora are terrestrial herbs, shrubs or weak trees, often growing in moist locations adjacent to streams and rivers, at mid to high elevations. It is not known to produce scaly rhizomes, and is therefore unusual in this sub-tribe. It is not in wide cultivation.