Dieffenbachia Schott
  • Wiener Z. Kunst 3: 820 (1829) 

Notes: Distribution: Mexico to Trop. America

General Description

HABIT : evergreen herbs, sometimes robust, stems erect to decumbent, sometimes ± rhizomatous, rooting proximally, foliose distally, erect and unbranched distally, internodes distinct, green, smooth, with conspicuous annular leaf scars. LEAVES : numerous. PETIOLE : sheath more than half as long as petiole or reaching blade. BLADE : oblong-ovate, elliptic to oblanceolate, dark to light green or sometimes variegated with white, silver, yellow or various shades of green; midrib thick, sulcate or prominent on upper surface, primary lateral veins pinnate, sometimes only weakly differentiated, running into margin, secondary laterals parallel-pinnate, connected by transverse tertiary veins. INFLORESCENCE : (1-)2-several in each floral sympodium, cataphylls short and usually inconspicuous. PEDUNCLE : shorter than petiole. SPATHE : persistent, slightly or distinctly constricted between tube and blade, green, lower part convolute into a usually rather long, persistent tube which splits longitudinally in fruit, upper part expanded into a short, erect or recurved blade. SPADIX : slightly shorter than spathe, female zone entirely adnate to spathe, enclosed within tube, laxly flowered, separated from male zone by subnaked axis with a few, scattered sterile male flowers with reduced staminodes, rarely fertile zones contiguous (D. humilis), male zone fertile to apex, free, subcylindric, densely flowered, erect. FLOWERS : unisexual, perigone absent. MALE FLOWER : stamens 4-5, connate into a subsessile, rhomboid to hexagonal synandrium, truncate at apex, sulcate laterally, anthers lateral, common connective thick, fleshy, thecae oblong-ellipsoid, dehiscing by short, apical, pore-like slit. POLLEN : extruded in strands, inaperturate, ellipsoid to oblong or nearly spherical, large (mean 79 µm., range 54-99 µm.), exine almost perfectly psilate to obscurely verruculate and/or sparingly punctate-foveolate to densely foveolate, rarely coarsely tuberculate (D. parlatorei). STERILE MALE FLOWERS : composed of a whorl of (3-)4-5(-6), ± flattened, irregularly globose-ellipsoid, sometimes ± connate staminodes. FEMALE FLOWER : staminodes 4-5 in a whorl, white, clavate with rounded apices, spreading to erect, surrounding and longer than gynoecium; ovary stout, subglobose to ovoid, thickwalled, 1-3-locular, locule walls bulging outwards giving ovary distinctly lobed appearance when plurilocular, ovules 1 per locule, anatropous, placenta axile to basal, style inconspicuous, stigma massive, almost as broad to broader than ovary, 2-3-lobed or subhemispheric (when unilocular), usually yellow, saturated with oily secretion at anthesis. BERRY : usually borne in arching infructescence, berries globose to 2-3-furrowed, stigma remnants persistent, 1-3-seeded, scarlet red to orange. SEED : globose to ovoid, testa smooth, green to blackish green, embryo large, endosperm absent.

Diagnostic Description

Evergreen helophytes or terrestrial herbs with erect to decumbent aerial stems, internodes distinct, green; leaf blade simple, ovate to oblanceolate often variegated; spathe tube usually rather elongated, persistent into fruit and then splitting to reveal scarlet or orange berries; female zone of spadix entirely adnate to spathe, laxly flowered; flowers unisexual, perigone absent; male flower a truncate synandrium. Differs from Bognera in having female flowers each with a whorl of 4-5 staminodes and parallel-pinnate fine leaf venation.


Tropical and subtropical humid forests, helophytes, at edges of stream banks, or terrestrial in forest leaf litter.


Mexico to Trop. America.

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
  • Introduced distribution
Found in
  • Northern America Mexico Mexico Gulf
  • Mexico Southeast
  • Mexico Southwest
  • Southern America Brazil Brazil North
  • Brazil Northeast
  • Brazil South
  • Brazil Southeast
  • Brazil West-Central
  • Caribbean Cayman Is.
  • Cuba
  • Dominican Republic
  • Haiti
  • Jamaica
  • Leeward Is.
  • Puerto Rico
  • Trinidad-Tobago
  • Venezuelan Antilles
  • Windward Is.
  • Central America Belize
  • Costa Rica
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Panamá
  • Northern South America French Guiana
  • Guyana
  • Suriname
  • Venezuela
  • Southern South America Argentina Northeast
  • Paraguay
  • Western South America Bolivia
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Peru
Introduced into
  • Africa West-Central Tropical Africa Gulf of Guinea Is.
  • Western Indian Ocean Seychelles
  • Asia-Tropical Malesia Borneo
  • Malaya
  • Pacific South-Central Pacific Society Is.

Included Species


  • 1 Govaerts, R. & Frodin, D.G. (2002). World Checklist and Bibliography of Araceae (and Acoraceae): 1-560. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • 2 Gardens, K.""Royal Bot World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. (2008).
  • 3 Mayo, S.J., Bogner, J. & Boyce, P.C. The Genera of Araceae. (Royal Botanic Gardens Kew: 1997).

 Information From

CATE Araceae
Haigh, A., Clark, B., Reynolds, L., Mayo, S.J., Croat, T.B., Lay, L., Boyce, P.C., Mora, M., Bogner, J., Sellaro, M., Wong, S.Y., Kostelac, C., Grayum, M.H., Keating, R.C., Ruckert, G., Naylor, M.F. and Hay, A., CATE Araceae, 14 Dec 2011 . 17 Dec 2011.
  • A All Rights Reserved
Flora of West Tropical Aftrica (FWTA)
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 2004. eFloras: Iridaceae. [online] Available at: http://kew.org/efloras/ [Accessed 2013-08-02]
  • B All Rights Reserved
Global Biodiversity Information Facility
  • C All Rights Reserved
eMonocot. (2010, 1st November). Retrieved Wednesday, 8th February, 2012, from http://e-monocot.org.
  • D Content licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
WCSP 2014. 'World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/ Retrieved 2011 onwards
  • E See http://kew.org/about-kew/website-information/legal-notices/index.htm You may use data on these Terms and Conditions and on further condition that: The data is not used for commercial purposes; You may copy and retain data solely for scholarly, educational or research purposes; You may not publish our data, except for small extracts provided for illustrative purposes and duly acknowledged; You acknowledge the source of the data by the words "With the permission of the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" in a position which is reasonably prominent in view of your use of the data; Any other use of data or any other content from this website may only be made with our prior written agreement.