Within our collection we have many species of Philodendron. If you are seeking other photos, click this link
Philodendron elegans K. Krause
Philodendron elegans K. Krause
Incorrectly Philodendron angustisectum
Common name: Skeleton Key Aroid, Skeleton Key Philodendron
A multi-lobed Philodendron from Colombia and Brazil, Philodendron elegans was described to science in 1913 and is a member of Philodendron section Polytomium. Philodendron elegans is an epiphytic vine that sprawls across the ground or may grow erect to climb the nearest tree.
Philodendron elegans is an unusual epiphytic species (a plant that grows upon another plant) due to the shape of the leaf which some collectors refer to as a "skeleton key". However, there are other Philodendron species with a similar growth form including Philodendron radiatum and Philodendron tortum. Some collectors appear to believe Philodendron radiatum is one and the same as Philodendron elegans however aroid botanist Dr. Thomas B. Croat Ph.D., P.A. Schulze Curator of Botany at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, MO responded to such a question on the International Aroid Society forum Aroid l in 2002 with this quote, "Philodendron radiatum and P. elegans are distinct species but admittedly they are similar, with the later being smaller, having fewer divisions and drying darker." Dr. Croat's reference to "drying darker" is a result of the examination of the dried specimens botanists store in a herbarium since a dried specimen reveals much greater detail than a living specimen and are always used as the basis for the final determination of a species.
The blade of Philodendron elegans are subcoriaceous (just less than leathery to the touch) and moderately glossy in sheen. The blades grow to approximately 53cm (21 inches) in length and may also be bicolorous having two shades of green on the adaxial (upper) surface. The primary leaf veins (major veins) are bluntly sunken as well as concolorous (only a single color) on the adaxial surface but may be roundly raised and darker on the abaxial (lower) leaf surface. The minor veins are fine in appearance while only moderately visible. Although very young juvenile blades are shaped differently from the adult form ,mid adult leaves are almost identical to the adult. The lobed leaf is pinnatified (cut to the mid rib) similar in structure to that of a palm frond. As a result, Philodendron elegans is sometimes called the Skeleton Aroid or a Skelton Key Philodendron.
The petioles which support the leaves are spongy to the touch and grow from nodes along the stem's length. The petiole is scientifically a stalk to which the lamina of the leaf blade is attached and is not a "stem" as is commonly suggested by collector/growers. The petiole is the support that connects the leaf blade to the stem. The petioles of Philodendron elegans are terete (round) and medium green in color and have a purple ring at apex (top). The petioles which support the leaves grow from nodes along the stem's length. The stem of an aroid is at the base of the plant.
Along the stem can be observed nodes from which both the roots and petioles extend. The sections between the nodes are known as the internodes but are simply the stem segments between two nodes and may measure up to 15 cm (6 inches) in length. New leaf blades grow from cataphylls which are produced by the nodes. A cataphyll is a bract-like modified leaf that surrounds any newly emerging leaf and whose purpose is to protect the new leaves as they emerge and develop. The cataphylls are deciduous and fall from the plant once the leaf is formed.
All Philodendron species are members of the larger plant family Araceae and are commonly known as aroids. An aroid is a plant that reproduces via the production of an inflorescence known to science as a spathe and spadix. Most people assume the spathe is a "flower" which is incorrect since the spathe is simply a modified leaf appearing to be a hood . If you explore the inflorescence with a magnifying glass when it is at sexual anthesis and is ready to be pollinated there are very tiny female, male and sterile male flowers that can be found on the spadix at the center of the inflorescence. When ready to reproduce these are normally separated by a sterile zone. The tiny male flowers produce pollen and the tiny female flowers are designed to be receptive to pollen. The pollen is carried from another plant already at male anthesis by an insect that is normally a beetle found within the genus Cyclocephala. The beetles enter the inflorescence of the first plant since the spathe produces a pheromone or fragrance which attracts them to fly to the inflorescence in order to find a place of warmth where they breed as well as a source of food. The sterile male flowers are rich in lipid proteins which the beetles eat. As a result they are covered with pollen and then fly to the next inflorescence of the same species that is beginning female anthesis thus pollinating the second spadix. Philodendron elegance normally produces two inflorescence per axil and the spathe is medium green throughout outside while maroon on the inside. The spadix is pale green on male portion. Once pollinated the female flowers will produce berries which contain seeds. Those berries are eaten by rain forest animals which spread the seeds through their droppings in the rain forest.
For more on aroid reproduction please read this link: Aroid Pollination
Some sources, especially horticultural websites, indicate that Philodendron elegans is actually Philodendron angustisectum. According to Dr. Croat Philodendron angustisectum is the same as Philodendron radiatum. In Dr. Croat's Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 1997, Volume 84 Number 3, he indicates they are not the same species. In a note on Aroid l Dr. Croat states, "I have seen the type of P. angustisectum and it is definitely P. radiatum. Before I saw the type of P. angustisectum I did for a time determine some specimens of P. tortum as P. angustisectum." Several similarly shaped species including Philodendron tortum are sometimes misidentified as Philodendron elegans. The majority of those that are misidentified have much finer lobes than Philodendron elegans.
Philodendron species, and especially hybrid forms, are known to be highly variable and not every leaf of every specimen will always appear the same. This link explains in greater detail the scientific principle of natural variation and morphogenesis. Click here.
Since Philodendron elegans best displays its attributes when allowed to climb you will wish to give this species as tall a totem as possible. Our specimen of Philodendron elegans was acquired from the Arenal Botanical Garden in Costa Rica as a very small seedling in the summer of 2005.
Want to learn more about aroids?
Join the International Aroid Society: http://www.exoticrainforest.com/Join%20IAS.html
or Brian's Botanicals