Genus of the Week
Week of Mar. 16 - 22
This page has been created for people who want to learn more about plants, especially in the context of their taxonomy (Latin names, etc.). This is by no means an exhaustive list of all available Web resources on a particular genus.
This week's genus:
Family: Araceae: The Aroids
Number of Species: Less than 50
Root: Named for the 19th century German botanist J. F. Dieffenbach, who was in charge of the gardens at Schönbrunn Castle in Vienna.
Dieffenbachia, also known as "Dumbcane" or "Mother-in-Law's Tongue" , is a tropical genus commonly found as a houseplant in North America. As houseplants they tolerate a certain amount of neglect and lack of sunlight. The common names refer to the fact that this genus is poisonous if ingested; the calcium oxalate crystals in the leaves cause pain and swelling in the mouth and throat and can prevent speech. Anyone handling a plant of this genus should take care to avoid the sap.
Here are a few links to images and descriptions of different Dieffenbachia species:
- Tips for caring for your Dieffenbachia houseplant.
- Check out the Dumbcane FAQ ( I guess people don't ask many questions about Dumbcane).
- Check out the warning about Dieffenbachia from the College of Pharmacy at the University of Arizona. Then click on the image so you are sure you know what it looks like!
- The Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System has more specific information about the following species:
- Dieffenbachia species can be hosts for viruses that also target Tomatoes and Impatiens. Check this site out for the literature citations.
- Gary Moorman, a plant pathologist at Penn State, has compiled a list of the pathogens that can affect Dieffenbachia, as well as the symptoms and potential cures.
- University of Pennsylvania has several pictures of both D. sequine and D. picta.
- For those of you interested in tissue culture, the Aroid Information Society has a great web page that includes discussion of how Dieffenbachia can be micropropagated using shoot apical meristems.
- Crockett, James Underwood. Crockett's Indoor Garden. Boston, Little, Brown and Company: 1978.
- Heywood, V.H., ed. Flowering Plants of the World. New York, Oxford University Press: 1993.
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