Terrestrial or epiphytic subshrub, to 2 m tall, rarely taller. Stem woody at base, succulent above, erect or ascending, tomentose to hirsute at apex, becoming glabrescent below. Leaves strongly unequal in a pair; petiole 0.4-1.8 cm long, tomentose; blade papyraceous when dry, oblanceolate, larger blade 15.5-32.6 x 5.4-10.7 cm,margin serrate to dentate, apex acuminate, base obliquely cuneate, above hirsute to strigose, hairs transparent but occasionally reddish towards margins, below tomentose to hirsute, hairs transparent. Flowers solitary, or up to several in fasciculate inflorescences; pedicel 0.2-0.5 cm long, reddishhirsute. Calyx campanulate, greenish-white to orange or scarlet, lobes nearly free, erect, subequal, lanceolate, 1.3-2.1 x 0.3-0.6 cm, margin laciniate or 3-6-toothed, apex acuminate to obtuse, outside whitish or reddish hirsute, inside hirsute; corolla slightly oblique in calyx, yellow, 2-3 cm long, tube cylindric, 1.8-2.7 cm long, base subgibbous, above base ca. 0.4 cm wide, middle slightly ventricose, throat slightly contracted, 0.5-0.6 cm wide, outside reddish to golden hirsute, inside pubescent, limb 0.5-0.6 cm wide, lobes subequal, erect, ovate, 0.2-0.4 x 0.2-0.3 cm, margin entire; stamens included, adnate to base of corolla tube; staminode very small; ovary ovoid, 0.4-0.5 x 0.2-0.3 cm, hirsute to pilose, style ca. 2.5 cm long, glabrous, stigma shortly 2-lobed. Mature berry white to orange, subglobose, ca. 1.8 x 1 cm.
C America present, French Guiana present, Guianas present, Southern America: Bolivia (Bolivia present); Ecuador (Ecuador present), Suriname present, northern S America present
C America, northern S America to Ecuador and Bolivia, in Suriname and French Guiana, and the West Indies; ± 350 collections examined, 36 from the Guianas (SU: 4; FG: 32).
The Guianan plants of this species have traditionally been placed in
Columnea aureonitens Hook. The characters distinguishing that species from C. sanguinea were the color and investiture of the lower leaf surface. The plants of the two taxa display all the characteristics and intermediates that cannot be distinguished reliably. The typical form of this species has prominent red areas near the apices on the lower leaf surfaces as seen in populations from Hispaniola, Trinidad and elsewhere. The all-green form of the species is found in Cuba, C America to Ecuador and Bolivia, and the Guianas.