Within our collection we have many species of Philodendron. If you are seeking other photos, click this link
Philodendron brandtianum K Krause
Often sold as
Philodendron variifolium Schott
Philodendron brandtianum is found in Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador and portions of Colombia. The species is an appressed climbing vine growing close to the host tree. Philodendron brandtianum is often confused with Philodendron variifolium but the true Philodendron variifolium is found almost exclusively in Peru with one scientific collection recorded in Bolivia. Based on information received from aroid botanist Dr. Thomas B. Croat Ph.D., P.A. Schulze Curator of Botany of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis (the world's leading aroid scientist), Philodendron brandtianum and Philodendron variifolium are botanically two completely different and dissimilar species despite information found on the internet.
According to the scientific description of the species Philodendron variifolium possesses elongated leaves that are thinly coriaceous. That description indicates the leaves have the feel of thin leather. The blade of P. variifolium grows in many diversely varied shapes, thus the name "variifolium", and are typically slightly heart shaped but display an oblong appearance. The leaves may commonly be be arrow shaped but still somewhat oblong. One principal distinction is Philodendron variifolium has a very wide sinus that is more open than Philodendron brandtianum. The sinus is the space between the upper lobes of the leaf blade. The frontal ribs in some leaves may be very weakly obvious as well as horizontal while curving upwards in a sigmoid-curve (a tilted S-shaped curve that is variable in shape). The lateral leaf veins are also all of less than equal size. Philodendron variifolium often grows terrestrially instead of climbing while Philodendron brandtianum is a known climbing species. While Philodendron brandtianum is common in collections as a result of tissue culture (cloning) the species Philodendron variifolium is almost never seen in a private collection outside of those of major botanical gardens. If you bought the plant on eBay or at a local garden center the chances of it truly being Philodendron variifolium are virtually zero!
You can see photos of Philodendron variifolium at the Missouri Botanical Garden site TROPICOS: http://www.tropicos.org/Name/2103366
This is a part of my exchange with Dr. Croat: "I think that what most people are calling Philodendron variifolium Schott is really P. brandtianum K. Krause, an appressed-climbing hemiepiphyte which when juvenile has blades that are variously variegated with gray. Somehow Graf got a picture of this in Exotica 3 and labeled it P. variifolium. The type of P. variifolium is a more or less 3-lobed species which was collected at the same sight as P. deflexum and indeed was one of three competing plants all with the same number competing for the name P. deflexum Poeppig. It is actually possible, I believe, that the real P. variifolium is really P. deltoideum. Marcela Mora and I have a paper on this subject in press."
Dr. Croat then
sent this note after reviewing my photo (left). Hopefully this will
help correct the confusion caused as a result of Mr. Graf's error in
his book Exotica 3. Despite the popularity of Mr. A. B. Graf's
books, he was a horticulturist and did not have the
scientific training of a botanist. His texts have been found to
have multiple scientific name errors. Dr. Croat wrote
regarding the juvenile specimen shown on this page, "I
would say this is P. brandtianum. It ranges from Central Brazil to
lowland Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. The variegation disappears in
the adult plants."
Very different when compared to the juvenile form, the leaf blades of the adult leaf of Philodendron brandtianum are subcoriaceous (less than leathery to the touch) and are a dark green as well as semi-glossy on the upper surface. The blades do not have the variegation of the juvenile. The underside of the leaf blade is semi-glossy but paler in color. The adult blade's underside is the same color throughout (concolorous). Juvenile plants are noticeably variegated with light and darker greens. In the wild, Philodendron brandtianum must climb to a substantial height in to develop the large leaves as well as produce an inflorescence.
The cataphylls which surround any newly emerging leaf blade are sharply single ribbed and a medium green in color. The cataphylls are deciduous and soon fall from the plant. The petioles which support the leaf blades are terete (round) and are a dark green in color.
The photos at the top of this page as well as to the right (below) are from the collection of Enid and Sam Offolter at Natural Selections Exotics in Fort Lauderdale. A similar specimen to the juvenile shown above was judged "Most Unusual Aroid" at the 2005 International Aroid Society Show and Sale at Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Miami, FL. It won that award using the name Philodendron variifolium.
All Philodendron species are aroids. An aroid is a plant that reproduces by producing an inflorescence known to science as a spathe and spadix. Many believe the spathe is a "flower" but it is not. The spathe is simply a modified leaf. When an aroid is referred to as "flowering" the reference is to the very small flowers found on the spadix. The reference has nothing to do with the spathe. Within the inflorescence there are extremely small flowers found on the spadix at the center of the inflorescence. The inflorescence, which is sometimes shaped like a tube and often known by collectors as a "flower" is the spathe and inside that is the spadix. When ready to reproduce, the spadix produces both male, female and sterile flowers which if pollinated will produce the berries containing seeds.
The spathe of Philodendron brandtianum is a medium to dark green and is a dark violet purple on the interior. An adult specimen produces a single spathe per axil. The spathe is semi-glossy and is supported on a short peduncle that is dark green. As pointed out by Dr. Croat the adult plant must climb approximately 10 meters (over 30 feet) and grow out onto the host tree's branches and become pendent (hang) for another 3 or more meters (10 feet) before it will produce an inflorescence. The spathe of Philodendron variifolium (which is not the same species as Philodendron brandtianum) is yellowish in color.
Philodendron brandtianum has proven it can become deciduous (drop its leaves) and does not enjoy excess water during the winter months even though it does enjoy damp and humid conditions during the hot growing season. As a result, we cut the water back from November through March.
Philodendron species are known to be highly variable and not every leaf of every specimen will always appear the same. This link explains natural variation and morphogenesis within aroid and other species. Click here
Want to learn more
Specimens may be available from
If you are seeking information on other rare species, click on "Aroids and other genera in the Collection" at the top and look for the