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By Nicole Tarnowsky

Jan 10 2019

Greek: Philo- (love) dendron (tree)

There are close to 500 species of Philodendron! They are native to the tropics of the Americas and the Caribbean.

Philodendrons have a huge variety in growth forms, many are hemiepiphytic, meaning they start out as seeds sprouting on trees high in the canopy, getting their nutrients from the tree they grow on. In this early stage they produce very small, juvenile leaves. When they are large enough they grow aerial roots towards the forest floor, getting their nutrients from the soil. In this adult phase the same plant will produce much larger leaves, almost unrecognizable as the same species.

One of the most popular Philodendrons grown as a house plant, Heart Leaf Philodendron P. hederaceum (Jacq.) Schott, is an excellent example of this metamorphosis the plant goes through from the juvenvile stage to the adult stage. Compare specimens of P. hederaceum, a juvenile looking very much like your houseplant, and another with giant leaves.

A rare Philodendron, P. lacerum (Jacq.) Schott grows in the wild only in Cuba and Hispaniola (endemic). This featured specimen was collected in Cuba in 1840.

A Closer Look

More about: Seed plants