About the African Violet Society of America
The purposes of AVSA are to:
- provide a convenient association for people interested in African violets
- stimulate interest in propagation and culture of African violets
- promote distribution of all varieties and species among members and others interested in growing them
- publish reliable, practical information about plants and the organization
AVSA membership, which includes both amateur and commercial growers, spans the globe. There are national groups in many countries of the world. The purposes of AVSA are carried out, in part, by a strong network of affiliate clubs, state and regional societies, councils of societies, and judges councils.
Growing beautiful African violets is a challenge and AVSA sponsored African violet shows staged at the AVSA Conventions and by AVSA Affiliates stimulate interest in growing. In AVSA Standard Shows, plants are merit-judged according to the appropriate AVSA Scales of Points by AVSA Judges.
AVSA is the International Cultivar Registration Authority for the genus Saintpaulia. This registry is now available to the public with the purchase of updatable software titled First Class which is sold by the AVSA office or through the online shop.
Information about AVSA’s many publications, services and activities is available in the African Violet Magazine, from the AVSA Office, and from the official website. The African Violet Society of America Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
Historical Introduction to African Violets
Early specimens of African violets had been collected by Sir John Kirk on the coast "opposite Zanzibar" in 1884, and by the Rev. W.. E. Taylor in the Giryama and Shimba Mountains in 1887.
In 1892, in Tanzania (then German East Africa), Captain Baron Walter von Saint Paul, the German Imperial District Captain of Usambara, collected a plant he called "das violette Usambara" (the Usambara violet). Captain Baron Saint Paul came from a family with a strong interest in plants. His father was even President of the German Dendrological Society.
Walter Saint Paul sent plants or seeds of the African "violet" to his father. His father gave them to Hermann Wendland, Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Herrenhausen in Hanover, Germany, and it was Wendland who wrote the first scientific description of the plant in Latin.
Wendland placed the plants in the Gesneriad family, gave them the generic name, Saintpaulia (in honor of the Saint Paul family), and the specific name, ionantha (with violet-like flowers).
Originally more than 20 species and subspecies of African violets were described. In 2009 this number was reduced down to nine species. It is from these species, their hybrids, and mutations of these hybrids that have come the thousands of cultivars that we enjoy today.
In 1893 the seed house of Ernst Benary, then in Erfurt, Germany, and now located in Munden, Germany, started to grow African violet plants commercially.
When the first English language description of the African violet (with a colored plate) appeared in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, in 1895, the statement was made: "It doesn’t often happen that a plant newly introduced into Europe can claim the honor accorded to the subject of this plate, of being within two years of its flowering figured in five first-class horticultural periodicals."
Commercial growing of African violet in the United States began in 1926 when Armacost & Royston of West Los Angeles, California, imported seeds from Benary in Germany and Sutton in England and introduced the plants to the trade. In the next 20 years, interest in the African violet increased among commercial and amateur growers to the point that in 1946 a national society was formed.
(The African Violet Society of America Handbook for Growers, Exhibitors, and Judges, 2007)