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The Exotic Rainforest

Within our collection we have many species of Philodendron.  If you are seeking other photos, click this link

The confusion over two rare Philodendron plants!

Philodendron moonenii Croat

Philodendron 'joepii'

  Philodendron 'joepii' and Philodendron moonenii, Photos Copyright Joep Moonen,
Philodendron moonenii Croat

Philodendron 'joepii'

Two Rare South American
Both Discovered by Naturalist Joep Moonen
(pronounced yupe)


For many years two rare plants lay hidden in the jungle rain forests of French Guiana.  That was until Dutch naturalist Joep Moonen trekked through the jungle and brought them out for scientists and collectors. 
Philodendron joepii with spathe, Photo Copyright 2008, Joep Moonen, www.ExoticRainforest.comFor some collectors, ever since my friend Joep introduced these plants to the world, "plant nuts" have confused their identity.  The oddest of the pair, the one a visiting botanist nick named Philodendron 'joepii' (yupe-E-eye),  has yet to receive an officially published scientific name and will likely never receive one  The more oval of the two is the only one bestowed that honor and is now a published scientific species.  Both bear Joep's names, one his first and one his last. 
Dr. Tom Croat of the Missouri Botanical Garden has officially given the oval Philodendron Joep's last name: Philodendron moonenii.  But to collectors, which plant is actually P. moonenii is often confused and argued.  Many people know the odd plant, Philodendron 'joepii', as Philodendron moonenii. and they don't know the oval plant, P. moonenii at all! 
Even more confusing, many believe Philodendron 'joepii' is actually a plant currently known to both science and collectors as Philodendron 69686 or 69686a (see that plant's description on this site).  Rumors have been on the internet for years P69686 will soon be named "Philodendron joepii"!  I've seen ads for 69686 claiming it already is Philodendron 'joepii'. 
Steve Lucas owner of the Exotic Rainforest with Joep Moonen in the Exotic Rainforest, Siloam Springs, AR, Photo Copyright 2010 Janice LucasAs late as 2007 an ad for the very interesting tri-lobed 69686 saying "move over Philodendron moonenii" appeared on an auction forum!  P69686 looks nothing like P. moonenii.  The seller obviously thought the tri-lobed plant of Joep's pair was P. moonenii.  Sorry, that one is Philodendron 'joepii'.  Confusing?  Hopefully this page will clarify the differences.
Most collectors simply haven't consulted with Joep about either plant's identity!  Dr. Croat has officially given the name Philodendron moonenii Croat to the oval plant, not the tri-lobed oddity!  According to Dr. Croat, no plans are currently underway to officially name anything "Philodendron joepii".  The wheels of botanical science move slowly.
I am pleased to say Joep Moonen is a close friend.  Even though he is thousands of miles away, we communicate almost daily.  While discussing many of the rare plants he has discovered in the rain forests of French Guiana I asked him to explain the mystery of why these plant names are so often confused.  He elected to send me a package of over 40 original photographs of species that grow in the jungles of northeast South America to illustrate his explanation.  The photos above were in that package. 
The photos of both Philodendron 'joepii' and Philodendron moonenii are of wild grown specimens in French Guiana.  In culture Philodendron 'joepii' (although often known to collectors as P. moonenii) is one of the most exotic of all Philodendron sp. and is highly sought after.  Collectors willingly pay a high price for a specimen.   I am aware of one plant bringing almost $500.00.
Philodendron moonenii  was discovered by Joep in 1995 during an impact study for a new road in French Guiana to Brazil.   The plant was found on the edge of a granite plate at Savane Roche.  Joep also found it on a road to Saut Maripa.  The plant has not been seen on the opposite side of the Matroni River where Philodendron 'joepii' was found.Oiapoque River in the Brazilian state of AmapÓ.  Like most Philodendron species, the species is variable.  An easy to understand explanation of natural variability can be found here.

A part of the Guiana Shield, AmapÓ is a 2.5 hour drive but only 10 minutes by boat from Joep's property, Emerald Jungle Village.   According to Joep, Philodendron moonenii is quite rare.  The stems are succulent and the specimen is difficult to grow from a cutting.  Joep states he has wonderful P. moonenii specimens growing around his property.  Adult plants can be seen in flower at E.J.V. every year. 

Dr. Croat's scientific description of Philodendron moonenii can be read in Aroideana, Volume 27, the 2004 edition of the International Aroid Society journal.  The species is hemiepiphytic with leaf blades 20 to 29.5 cm (app. 8 to 11 1/2 inches) long by 13 to 17.5cm (app. 5 to 7 inches) wide.  A hemiepiphyte (hem-a-EPA-fite) is a plant species that can either begin life as a seed which has fallen on the ground and has climbed a host tree or the seed was deposited on a tree in a bird's droppings and has sent roots down toward to the ground.  Amazingly,  even though the name is famous, the true Philodendron moonenii simply has not reached a high level of popularity with collectors.  To most, this form is almost unknown!

The sought after and very odd Philodendron 'joepii' with it's wide lower lobe tapering upwards into a slender narrow upper body and then topped by a pair of upwardly and outwardly pointing lobes was found by Joep in 1991 on the Mataroni River in eastern French Guiana.  Joep takes visitors almost daily to the jungle on rain forest ecological tours and was seeking new places on that river for ecotourism. 

The plant was seemingly so malformed he first thought it had simply been eaten by insects.  But when he returned to the site he found it normally grew in that form.  That plant existed on an ant's nest!  When he attempted to recover the ant covered specimen he fell into the boat and thousands of ants invaded!  Joep was certain he would be eaten by insects!  To save both himself and the plant Joep elected to tow the specimen behind the boat for an hour in to get rid of all those ants!  Unsure if he had actually found a new species Joep began labeling each new leaf with the date it was collected.  He has subsequently found only one additional plant on the river.  Two specimens exist in the wild.  Only two!

Philodendron 'joepii', Copyright 2008, Joep Moonen, www.ExoticRainforest.comThe plant is extremely rare and it's leaves grow to approximately 70 cm (27 1/2 inches) in length.  The specimens at Emerald Jungle Village now produce an inflorescence each year.  An inflorescence is simply a spathe and spadix and is the reproductive portion of any aroid.  This plant is still under investigation and has not been officially scientifically identified.  Joep has come to the conclusion it may be a hybrid and made this comment in a recent email exchange while we were discussing another somewhat similar plant found at the gardens of Roberto Burle-Marx in Brazil saying it may be "a natural hybrid between Philodendron bipennifolium and Philodendron pedatum.  The 'ears' and inflorescences of 'joepii' look like (those) in pedatum."  Commenting that both of these species grew near the natural location of P. 'joepii' he went on to explain, "I found only 2 plants in the wild (on the) Mataroni River in eastern French Guiana, many Amazonian species there".   In February, 2008 Philodendron 'joepii' bloomed for Joep for the very first time.  But please understand, an inflorescence is not a "flower".  It is a group of flowers, both male and female.  The actual spathe is nothing more than a modified leaf.  Production of a spathe and spadix is quite rare on this specimen. 

Some will certainly say the information in this article is incorrect, Joep would disagree.  Ask him, his email address is attached.  The specimen photos Philodendron 'joepii' spathe, Photo Copyright 2007, Joep Moonen, French Guianaabove were taken by Joep Moonen of wild plants and all the information in this article was provided and verified by Joep.  And we now have specimens in our personal collection of the rarest plants!  Those were imported legally with permits as a result of our friendship!

The images on this page are the Copyright property of naturalist Joep Moonen, French Guiana.  You must seek permission before attempting to duplicate any image!

If you enjoy spending time in a rain forest filled with exotic creatures and extremely rare exotic plant species Joep Moonen also enjoys introducing people like you to the rainforests of northeast South America.   The Emerald Jungle Village website can be found at:

For eco-tour information and a brochure contact Joep Moonen directly at

Go here for more about P69686, the third plant in this confusion.

Click here for a list of all Philodendron and other species in our collection