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 New: Understanding, pronouncing and using Botanical terminology, a Glossary

Anthurium hookeri Kunth

The plant in your yard is probably not
Anthurium hookeri.
This article explains how to identify the true species which produces white berries instead of red.

Anthurium hookeri Kunth photographed at the Missouri Botanical Garden, Photo Copyright 2009 Steve Lucas,

Anthurium hookeri Kunth
Anthurium huegelii, Anthurium neglectum

The true Anthurium hookeri is not the common Bird's Nest Anthurium found in South Florida yards!
Sometimes incorrectly spelled "Anthurium hookerii"

Some of the photos seen on this page are courtesy of aroid botanist David Scherberich,
Jardin Botanique de la Ville de Lyon
, France. 
You can see David's aroid specimen photo gallery here:

The scientific data in this text was gathered from personal communication including email and visits to the office of 
aroid botanist Dr. Thomas B. Croat.  Other material was take from his journal 
Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 1991, Volume 78, #3.
Although scientific terminology is used in this article an effort is made to make that terminology understandable.


The goal of this discussion is to help you determine if you have the Anthurium species known to science as Anthurium hookeri or an unknown hybrid.  If you read the details making a determination is often easy.


Anthurium hookeri leaf photographed at the Missouri Botanical GardenThe name "Anthurium hookeri" (or hookerii) is often incorrectly applied to hybridized Anthurium plants that are not related to the species identified to science as Anthurium hookeri.  It is likely the vast majority of specimens sold in South Florida aren't truly the species but instead are hybrids "borrowing" using the name. 

One well known Florida nursery owner stated, "As many nurserymen down here know, Anthurium hookeri is a catch all name applied to all bird nest type Anthuriums regardless of true taxonomic origins."   Many of those hybrid plants are more closely related to Anthurium schlechtendalii or Anthurium plowmanii than to Anthurium hookeri.  This article will help you determine if you are fortunate enough to be growing the true Anthurium hookeri or a hybrid.  Unfortunately, and Denis explained, the name "hookeri" is now used more as a common name, than the name of the species for which it ws originally described.

The name Anthurium hookeri is a true scientific name used incorrectly for almost any birds nest Anthurium found used in landscaping.  The name "Anthurium hookeri" often represents the very plant that is considered "tropical" in a Florida Anthurium hookeri, photo courtesy of botanist David Scherberich, Photo Copyright 2008, David Scherberich, Francelandscape but regrettably that name is used for any plant that looks tropical rather than being used for the true scientific species.  I recently posted a request on several garden discussion groups for anyone growing the true species to post photos of their plant and not a single person responded.

The term "tropical rain forest" was originated by German explorer Wilhelm Philipp Schimper when he first used the term in his 1898 book Plant Geography to describe the southeastern islands of the Caribbean where species such as Anthurium hookeri are found in nature.  Schimper's definition of a rain forest was "evergreen, hygrophilous in character, at least 30 meters high, but usually much taller, rich in thick-stemmed lianas (jungle vines) and in woody as well as herbaceous epiphytes".  

Many plant sellers sell any Anthurium they cannot identify using the generic name "Anthurium hookeri".   The text you are reading is based on botanical science.  Any collector should be able to use this material to determine if they are or not truly growing the Anthurium species known to science as Anthurium hookeri. 

Anthurium hookeri berries containing seeds, white NOT red as commonly believed, Photo Copyright 2010 Leland MiyanoAnthurium hookeri is relatively rare in nature and contrary to popular belief the berries produced on a pollinated spadix (infructescence) are not red but are instead white!  The original scientific description stating the berries are white as well as a botanically verified photo of an infructescence by Dr. Croat (courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden website TROPICOS) with white berries can be found on this page.

A variable Anthurium species, Anthurium hookeri was described to science by German botanist Carl Sigismund Kunth (1788 -1850).  Many aroid species exhibit natural variation and not every leaf of every specimen will always look the same, however there are very distinctive characteristics which can be used to determine if a plant is, or is not the species, Anthurium hookeri Kunth.

Anthurium hookeri is an aroid and is found on many of the lower eastern Caribbean islands found in the West Indies including Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Trinidad.  It is also been observed in northern Venezuela and through the Guiana Shield in northeastern South America but is relatively rare in some of this region.

Although the record is not perfectly clear, some anecdotal information implies the species was named in honor of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911) who was a well known 19th century botanist.  Hooker described several taxa (species) of aroids as well as a variety of other plant specimens including the odd plant known on the internet as the Rare Supervolute vernation Anthurium hookeri, Photo Copyright 2010 Leland MiyanoThailand Parrot Flower (Impatiens psittacina).   Since the younger Hooker would have only been in his early 20's at the time A. hookeri was described it is likely Anthurium hookeri was named in honor of a former director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew in London botanist Sir William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865) who was his father. 

Anthurium hookeri grows both as an epiphyte (ep-a-FIT) and as a terrestrial Anthurium species.  An epiphyte is a plant that grows upon another plant (normally a tree) as can be seen in botanist David Scherberich's photo at the top of this page.  As his photo illustrates, Anthurium hookeri is often found growing on the branches of a tree.  The species is found in nature at elevations between 200 to 1450 meters (700 to 4,750 feet. 

Despite the recent demand in Indonesia and southeast Asia for specimens of Anthurium hookeri it is likely many if not most of the plants sold as with that name are not truly the species but are instead a hybrid plant of unknown heritage.   Specimens with the name "Anthurium hookeri" are frequently sold in the United States as landscape plants and are commonly available at nurseries in southern Florida.  Almost all of the specimens using the name "Anthurium hookeri" in the nursery trade are not the species known to science as Anthurium hookeri but are instead a hybrid plant.  It appears likely those hybrids include Anthurium plowmanii as one of the hybrid parents due to the wavy (undulated) leaf edges.  

Most Anthurium collectors also assume incorrectly Anthurium hookeri is one of the "bird's nest forms" placed in Anthurium section Pachyneurium .   According to aroid botanist Dr. Thomas B. Croat Ph.D., P.A. Schulze Curator of Botany at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, the true Anthurium hookeri is not a member of Anthurium section Pachyneurium due to several unusual characteristics.   On page 755 of his journal Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 1991, Volume 78, #3, Dr. Croat wrote, "Though treated as a Pachyneurium by both Schott (1860) and Engler (1905), Anthurium hookeri does not belong there. It differs from all species of Pachyneurium by having supervolute vernation and leaf blades with scalariforme
 secondary venation and glandular punctations on the lower blade surface.  It probably belongs to its own section or is an unusual member of  sect. Porphyrochitonium." 

Involute, supervolute and convolute vernation in aroids

Supervolute is to possess coils or folds in overlapping whorls and vernation refers to the arrangement of young leaf Anthurium hookeri scalariforme interprimary leaf veins, Photo Copyright 2009, Steve Lucas, photographed at the Missouri Botanical Gardenblades so supervolute vernation is to possess a convolute arrangement in the folding or arrangement of a newly emerging leaf blade with one margin (edge) of the newly blade emerging rolled inward toward the midrib and the opposite margin rolled around the midrib as well as the remainder of the leaf in a manner similar to the coil at the end of a conch shell.  The only difference in supervolute and convolute vernation is convolute vernation occurs when several leaves spiral with the next leaf in a module enclosed within the current leaf. This will be clearer if you look at the drawing below.  Anthurium hookeri does not grow new leaves in the convolute fashion as do all members of section Pachyneurium.

In another personal email he continued, "I personally think that it is in a new section of its own. It differs from any other section in having scalariforme
e veins and glandular punctations. We had hoped that molecular studies would help to sort out some of these questions but the last I heard my student Monica had not really gotten good resolution on all the sections." 
Monica is researcher Monica Carlsen.

 venation is used to describe the spacing of the interprimary or secondary veins that extend in a roughly  parallel or ladder-like fashion between the primary lateral veins.  The primary lateral leaf veins are the large veins that run from the midrib to the edge (margin).  The botanical term glandular punctations refers to tiny black dots found on the underside (abaxial surface) of any leaf blade.  For a better understanding of glandular punctates please refer to David's photo (left, below). 

Anthurium hookeri glandular punctates, Photo Copyright 2008, David ScherberichThis message from Dr. Croat to the members of the discussion forum Aroid l posted on December 17, 2001 offers a positive way to determine if a specimen is truly Anthurium hookeri,  "Anthurium hookeri, which has scalariforme
 veins (ladder-like) extending between the primary lateral veins.  You can definitively prove it one way or the other though.  If your plant has tiny black glandular dots on the lower surface and/or if it has supervolute vernation (rather than involute vernation) it is A. hookeri.  If it lacks either it is a member of Anthurium section Pachyneurium series Pachyneurium."   

Aroid expert Julius Boos explains further regarding supervolute vernation, "Supervolute vernation is the way the very young emerging leaves are 'folded', (see page 347 of Deni Bown`s book Aroids, Plants of the Arum Family to see what involute vernation looks like.  Check this on most of your birds nest Anthurium sp., very interesting when you notice it for the first time.   Supervolute vernation is very much like what Deni calls convulute vernation which is what Anthurium hookeri has and what makes it different from all other birds nest Anthuriums, all of which Tom says have involute vernation."  (see drawing above)

The lack of the glandular punctations (dots) and evenly spaced "ladder like" veins precludes many of the specimens in collections as well as in Florida landscapes from being Anthurium hookeri.  According to the scientific description as well as Dr. Croat, the berries are whitish, not red.  That information alone rules out many of the plants which commercial growers often sell with the incorrect name "Anthurium hookeri". 

Anthurium hookeri stem and petioles, Photo Copyright 2009, Steve Lucas, www.ExoticRainforest.comIn his journal Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 1991, Dr. Croat comments that the frequency of the species in the wild in unknown.  In personal conversation Dr. Croat has indicated Anthurium hookeri may be somewhat rare, at least in
the Guiana Shield region of South America.  I once asked my friend Dutch naturalist Joep Moonen (pronounced yupe) for additional information on the species since he lives and works in the rain forests of French Guiana.  Joep often takes botanists into the jungle in search of rare and unusual specimens.  In his response Joep made this remark, "I collected A. hookeri (I think) only in South Suriname in 1983 at an inselberg at 2000 feet high.  I do not think the species lives in lowland forests, perhaps it is too hot. I will ask people that go to Martinique to look for them."   In a follow-up message, Joep continued,  "I have never seen one on our excursions or expeditions in the Guianas apart from an expedition in 1983 to the very south of Suriname."   An inselberg is defined as a Anthurium hookeri stem (base of plant), Photo Copyright 2010 Leland Miyanoridge or hill that remains when a mountain erodes and is otherwise a flat plain.

The leaf blades of Anthurium hookeri are oblanceolate (both oblong and lance shaped but wider near the tip) and can be up to 89cm long (roughly 3 feet).  The leaves are widest just above the middle of each blade.  The leaf margins (edges) are smooth and do not possess the ruffled edges most of the hybrid forms sold as  "Anthurium hookeri" possess.  The leaves are thick and leathery to the touch (coriaceous) and the leaf blades have 9 to 15 primary lateral leaf veins on each side of the leaf while the minor veins (tertiary) grow roughly parallel to the primary veins.  Black glandular punctates (similar to small "dots") can be seen on the undersides of the leaf as is shown by David Scherberich photo (above left) but are also vaguely visible on the upper (adaxial) leaf surface. 

Anthurium hookeri cataphyll photo copyright Leland MiyanoAccording to the scientific description of Anthurium hookeri (see that document at the bottom of this page), A. hookeri has roots that are very dense and the internodes are short.  An internode is a segment of the stem between two nodes while the nodes are where leaves may emerge.  In botany the stem is not the support for any single leaf as is often stated by collector/growers but instead is the base of the plant.  Instead, the petioles support the leaf blades.  The petioles of Anthurium hookeri should be triangular to "D" shaped when cut and viewed as a cross section (see illustration below left).

The cataphylls, which are a bract-like modified leaf that surrounds any newly emerging leaf blade and whose purpose is to protect that new leaf blade, are lanceolate (lance shaped) and  typically measure 20 to 26cm in length (7.8 inches to 10.25 inches) but may be much smaller on Anthurium hookeri dried cataphyll and petiole, Photo Copyright 2009, Steve Lucas, www.ExoticRainforest.coma young specimen.  The leaf blades of Anthurium hookeri grow in a rosette cluster (similar to the shape of a rose) and are somewhat similar to the birds nest forms.  However, Anthurium hookeri is scientifically not a member of section Pachyneurium which contains the birds nest Anthurium species. 

The actual section placement for Anthurium hookeri is still under scientific study however this message from Dr. Croat helps to explain the current research, "I personally think that it is in a new section of its own.  It differs from any other section in having scalariforme
 veins and glandular punctations. We had hoped that molecular studies would help to sort out some of these questions but the last I heard my student Monica had not really gotten good resolution on all the sections."  

An aroid, all Anthurium species reproduce via the production an inflorescence.  The stalk that supports the entire inflorescence is the peduncle. When an Anthurium is "in flower" the reference is to the tiny flowers containing both male Anthurium hookeri inflorescence, spathe, spadix, Photo Copyright 2008, David Scherberichand female sexual parts that grow on the spadix at the center of the inflorescence.  Unlike plants in the genus Philodendron which contain imperfect flowers having only a single sex Anthurium possess perfect flowers containing both sexes.  To help prevent self pollination nature has designed the female flowers to be receptive before the male portion of the flower produce their pollen so in most cases an insect must bring pollen from another plant.

An aroid is a plant that reproduces by growing an inflorescence which in an aroid is known to science as a spathe and spadix.  Most people believe the spathe is a "flower" which is incorrect. The spathe is a modified leaf whose purpose is to offer protection to the spadix at the center of the inflorescence.  During sexual anthesis there can be found very tiny flowers on the spadix when the plant is ready to produce seeds. When ready to reproduce the spadix grows In to produce seeds the female portion of the flowers must first be pollinated when they reach their own sexual anthesis.  The male flower portion produce pollen after the female flowers are receptive and If the female flowers are pollinated by an appropriate Cyclocephala beetle which carries pollen from another Anthurium specimen already at male anthesis those female flowers will be pollinated and the spadix will begin to grow white berries containing 1 to 2 seeds.  

Anthurium hookeri produces an unimpressive inflorescence which hangs spreading and pendent (downward) alongside the bluish spadix and the spadix stands erect.  The spathe is green with a purple tinge and is cylindrically tapered. The seed berries found on the infructescence are oval and oblong in shape and not red as is commonly believed. 

Anthurium species are known to be highly variable and not every leaf of every specimen will always appear the same but Anthurium hookeri berries (white, not red as commonly believed), Photo Copyright 2010 Leland Miyanothe sexual characteristics remain stable.  This link explains in greater detail the scientific principle of natural variation and morphogenesis.  Natural variation

Many websites and sellers sell their hybrid specimens as "Anthurium hookerii" (with two i's) which is not a correct scientific spelling.  There are also firms that sell a plant they call "Anthurium hookeri Ruffles".  Scientifically, there is no such species and the common name Anthurium Ruffles is more frequently applied Anthurium plowmaniiAnthurium plowmanii commonly has ruffled edges but is not closely related to Anthurium hookeri.  The two species are found thousands of miles apart in nature.  There is another tissue cultured plant sold as Anthurium hookeri Marie which is a hybrid and does not appear to be related to Anthurium hookeri

A hybridized specimen is not the same as a scientific species since a hybridized plant has been genetically modified by combining the DNA of two or more species.

Anthurium hookeri prefers high humidity.  Normally found growing as an epiphyte it also needs very fast draining soil to prosper since epiphytes typically do not have their roots in soil.  Instead, the roots are simply attached to the host tree and suspended in the air.  Grow this species in fast draining soil that will not remain soggy. 

We have a specimen we had thought for many years to be Anthurium hookeri but the plant is not truly the species.  Our specimen was formally a resident of the now defunct Orchid Jungle Park south of Miami, FL and was rescued by a grounds keeper after Hurricane Andrew destroyed the park in 1992.  

Anthurium hookeri spadix with white berries developing, Photo Copyright 2010 Leland MiyanoThe absence of the "black dots", evenly spaced ladder-like interprimary or secondary veins as well as the production of red berries instead of white along with other characteristics has proven our plant is not Anthurium hookeri but instead Anthurium schlechtendalii.  If the majority of collectors that believe they are growing "Anthurium hookeri" were to check these characteristics against their plant many will be very surprised at the results.

My thanks to Emily Colletti who is the chief aroid keeper at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis for her help in photographing specimens in the garden's collection.  My additional thanks to botanist David Scherberich, Windy Aubrey, my mentor Dr. Tom Croat as well as aroid expert Leland Miyano for the use of their photographs of specimens of Anthurium hookeri.  

David is associated with the Jardin Botanique de la Ville de Lyon, Parc de la Tete d'Or, Lyon, France.  For those who don't speak French, the name is Lyon Botanic Garden. 

My additional thanks to aroid botanist Dr. Tom Croat of the Missouri Botanical Garden for his counsel as well as providing the scientific description of the species along with detailed information during our research of this species.


Anthurium hookeri, Photo Copyright 2010 Windy Aubrey


This is the scientific description of Anthurium hookeri published in 1841:

A. hookeri Kunth, Enum.  pl. 3:74.  1841.  Type: Schott Drawing 517 serves as the lectotype (designated by Mayo, 1982)

Epiphyte.  Internodes  short, densely rooted;  cataphylls lanceolate, 20-26 cm long, dilacerating from base.  VERNATION- supervolute;  Leaves rosulate; petioles  triangular to D-shaped, 2-9 cm long, 1.5-1.7 cm wide; blades oblanceolate, broadest above middle, margins smooth, black glandular punctate on both surfaces, 35-89 cm long, 10-26 cm wide.  primary lateral veins  9-15 per side, free to the margin, tertiary veins extending in a more or less parallel, ladder-like fashion between the primary lateral veins (scalariforme
).  peduncle to 47 cm long, to 5 mm diam.; spathe pale green, tinged purple, oblong, to 9 cm long, to 1.5 cm wide; spadix violet-purple, cylindroid-tapered, to 10-16 cm long, to 5-7 mm diam,; Infructescence- berries, obovoid, whitish, to 6 mm long, to 4.5 mm wide. 

Anthuriumhookeri inflorescence, spathe and spadix, Photo Copyright 2010 Windy Aubrey

Anthurium hookeri, photo courtesy of botanist David Scherberich, Photo Copyright 2008, David Scherberich, France












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