Philodendron martianum Engl.
Incorrectly known as Philodendron cannifolium
The name "Philodendron cannifolium" is considered illegitimate by
the Royal Botanic Garden Kew In London
Common Names: von Martius' Philodendron, Flask Philodendron,
sometimes called "Philodendron Katak" and Philodendron Fat Boy in SE Asia
Philodendron martianum is endemic to (exclusively found in) Brazil and was described to science in 1899 by botanist Heinrich Gustav Adolf Engler (1844 to 1930). Adult specimens of Philodendron martianum grow in a rosette form (similar to the arrangement of a rose's petals) and are capable of growing quite large (2 meters or more) as can be seen in Leland Miyano's three photos on this page. Leland reports having seen specimens in Brazil that were even larger. The species grows as an epiphyte (ep-a-FIT) on the branches of trees as well as a terrestrial species provided the host tree falls. An epiphyte is a plant that grows upon another plant and the seeds of epiphytic species are distributed among a tree's branches in the droppings of a rain forest bird or animal that has eaten the ripe berries containing seeds produced by the aroid's inflorescence. An explanation of an aroid inflorescence including a photo of the spathe and spadix of Philodendron martianum can be found later in this article.
The following information regarding where and how Philodendron martianum grows in nature was provided by aroid botanist Marcus A. Nadruz Coelho, Diretoria de Pesquisas, Instituto de Pesquisas Jardim Botanico do Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden) in Brazil. The restinga is a unique coastal tropical and subtropical moist rain forest habitat and includes the coastal sand plains along the southeastern Atlantic coastline of Brazil. Marcus wrote in a personal communication in September 2008, "Philodendron martianum is a species that occurs in the Atlantic rain forest and forest of restinga (not in vegetation of restinga). This species prefers shaded places and is found up to 900 m (2,950 feet) in altitude. It has distribution in Santa Catarina, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro but the populations are more numerous in the State of Rio de Janeiro by having more mild temperature between 20 and 35 degrees Celsius (68 to 95 degrees F) and is more common in forests near the sea. The possible record for the Bahia may be a mistake, that material must be considered. It is predominantly epiphytic but is on the ground optionally when a tree falls."
Friend and aroid expert Leland Miyano (who has
spent a great deal of time in the rain forests of Brazil) also commented,
"I grow mine as both
epiphytes and terrestrials. However, in habitat I have only seen
them as epiphytes...quite large and heavy on smallish trees with
rather open canopies and associated with Bactris palms. When I grow
them as epiphytes they are slower
and smaller. As terrestrials,
they grow faster and larger. In fact, my largest plants have leaves
3 feet total length...2 foot blades
with 1 foot petioles. (.9 meters x .6 m x .3 m)
not like to be too wet so maybe this is why in a seasonally flooded
I only saw them as epiphytes. The habitats I have
seen them in are coastal restingas as epiphytes in stunted trees
with swampy ground...not really dry areas...but these restingas may
be seasonally dry areas."
Leland's hand in the photo below measures almost 18cm (7 inches).
The most authoritative source for scientific species' name information is the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in London since all species names must be verified through their resources. The Kew has a variety of websites including the International Plant Names Index, the Kew World Monocot Checklist and others. On these scientific databases you can find the accepted name for the species shown here is correctly Philodendron martianum. If you type in the name Philodendron cannifolium you will also find (even though it has been published) the name is illegitimate under botanical rules and was published in contravention to the rules for valid publication. Royal Botanical Garden Kew, London
How is such an error possible? Please remember when those early botanical descriptions were published in the 1800's botanist did not have access to the internet, a computer, telephones, or rapid communication. Frequently they did not have access to all the previously published works of botanical science, especially while in remote tropical rain forest regions. Many were forced to simply work from memory when in the field. Verifying whether or not a specimen was previously described often required creating a drawing, attempting to collect a living specimen or dried material before traveling by a slow ship back to Europe in to verify a name. As a result, it was not uncommon for names to be used more than once to describe different plants or for a species to be described in the wrong genus. However, within the rules of botanical science the first date of publication of a scientific name that is correct to genus becomes the accepted name for that species and all others become a synonym provided they were describing the same species.
The following explanation is likely to be confusing to those who do not normally read botanical scientific literature. Please read it through slowly or more than once and you will understand that Philodendron cannifolium is a very different plant than Philodendron martianum.
The name Philodendron cannifolium has been published to science three different times and each time the name was used for a different plant or was used illegally according to the rules of botany to describe an already existing species. (You may verify this fact via the Kew World Monocot Checklist website). Here are the dates and authors who described plants using the name Philodendron cannifolium:
Philodendron cannifolium (Dryand. ex. Sims) Sweet (published in 1839) is not a Philodendron but is a Spathiphyllum species correctly known as Spathiphyllum cannifolium. As a result, that name is incorrect and stated by the Kew to be illegal.
Philodendron cannifolium Mart. ex Kunth (published in 1841) was incorrectly indicated by Dr. Carl Friedrich Phillip von Martius M.D. (1794-1868) in his Flora Brasiliensis Volume 3 when he published an exquisite drawing of Philodendron martianum and called it Philodendron cannifolium in error. Therefore, that use of the name is also incorrect and the use is noted by the Kew as illegal.
The third publication of the name Philodendron cannifolium Engl. (published in 1899) is botanically a synonym for Philodendron rudgeanum Schott. (see photos of that species on this page) and is not a synonym for Philodendron martianum. Philodendron rudgeanum is a vine that possesses leaves that are similar to a Spathiphyllum. Philodendron rudgeanum was published in 1856 and is found in Brazil, French Guiana and Colombia and looks nothing like Philodendron martianum.
There is also a fourth
publication which was for Philodendron guttiferum var. rudgeanum
(Schott) A.M.E. Jonker & Jonker published in 1953. The
botanical records are not precisely clear on this publication but that
publication has also proven to be only a synonym of Philodendron
rudgeanum. Although this plant has not been associated
with Philodendron martianum, upon occasion the name has been
confused with Philodendron cannifolium.
As a result of these errors it is more than understandable when a collector elects to put a tag on a specimen of Philodendron martianum and incorrectly call it Philodendron cannifolium since the name has long been confusing. Botanically, the name Philodendron cannifolium is not the same as Philodendron martianum.
All Philodendron species are aroids. An aroid is a plant that reproduces by producing an inflorescence known to science as a spathe and spadix which is supported by a peduncle. Once the inflorescence completes sexual reproduce and the fruit and seed are spread it dies and both the peduncle and inflorescence drop from the plant which may leave a scar on the petiole In the case of older plants, See Alfonso de la Parra's photograph (below). Many people believe the spathe is a "flower" which is incorrect. The spathe is a specially modified leaf appearing to be a hood whose purpose is to protect the spadix at the center of the inflorescence. The spadix is a spike on a thickened fleshy axis which can produce tiny flowers. On the spadix of the fertile inflorescence there can be found very tiny true flowers when the plant is at anthesis (sexual reproduction). When ready to reproduce, the spadix produces male, female and sterile flowers as well as pollen and if the female flowers are pollinated by an appropriate insect, normally a beetle, they will produce berries containing seeds. Part of nature's plan is to have those berries eaten by rain forest animals and thus perpetuate the species throughout the rain forest.
In his field notes, Dr. Croat describes the inflorescence of Philodendron martianum as being solitary (one inflorescence per axil) with the spathe a medium green, yellow green or greenish cream on the outside of the spathe's tube. The photo below shows two inflorescences growing from different axils. The interior is greenish white with the exception of a portion being reddish purple along the back side of spathe. Leland comments further regarding the color of the inflorescence and growth of the species, "The interior of the open spathe is whitish at the top and red-purple down the "throat". Mine rarely bloom only because I have cut them so often and only recently let them grow to full size. I also suspect they like cooler temperatures. Most of the plants I saw were to the southern end of Rio de Janeiro state and south. That is not to say they were much farther to north, again these were my observations and Brazil is a gigantic country to explore." Philodendron martianum also reproduces by the production of offsets near the base of the plant
The leaf blades of Philodendron martianum are coriaceous to subcoriaceous (leathery to less than leathery to the touch) and are a medium dark green in color. The blades are only slightly glossy on the upper surface but semi-glossy to matte and slightly paler in color on the underside. The primary lateral leaf veins are not easily seen (photo below) and the minor veins are only slightly visible on both blade surfaces.
The petioles (often incorrectly called stems) which support each blade are spongy to the touch and are terete (less than round but still circular or cylindrical). The stems are correctly at the base of the plant which produces the nodes, internodes, buds and thus petioles and inflorescences. To better understand the difference in a petiole and a stem please read this link.
The petioles commonly possess a "C" shaped depression (canaliculate) down the adaxial (upper) surface of the petiole and since the petiole's are often swollen they likely store water or starches inside. There are sharp ridges that define the edges of that canal. See photos of the petioles of Philodendron martianum to the right below.
Philodendron species are known to be highly variable and not every leaf of every specimen will always appear the same. This link explains in non-technical language natural variation and morphogenesis within aroids and other species.
Our specimen of Philodendron martianum (top of this page) was a gift from Florida collector Russ Hammer and is the same specimen shown in his photos above. We grow the specimen in shade in well draining soil that contains potting mix, orchid bark with charcoal, peat, Perlite and other soil additives including gravel to encourage fast moisture drainage.
My thanks to aroid botanical expert Marcus A. Nadruz from Brazil as well as aroid expert Leland Miyano for their guidance and assistance in researching the scientific facts presented in this article along with Leland's assistance with the text. My sincere appreciation also goes to Buddy Poulsen, Alfonso de la Parra, Russ Hammer, Leland Miyano, Alex Popovkin, Scott Zona, Shu Suehiro and Jim Edwards for the use of their photographs.
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Aroids and other genera in the Collection