Philodendron radiatum Schott
Synonym: Philodendron impolitum
Sometimes sold with the misnomer "Philodendron barryii"
Philodendron species are known to be highly variable and not every leaf of every specimen will always appear the same. In addition, Philodendron species go through a morphogenesis as they grow and change their appearance from juvenile through adult in the same way children morph as they grow. This link explains in greater detail the scientific principle of natural variation and morphogenesis. Click here. Understanding morphogenesis and natural species variation will help you to understand the problem encountered by the seller in this text.
Philodendron radiatum is found in the Chiapas region of tropical Mexico down through Central America and on into most of the northwestern portion of South America down through Peru. It is also grows in portions of Brazil. According to scientific texts the plant is an epiphyte (ep-a-FIT) growing upon other plants (normally a tree) and is a vigorous climber that can reach a leaf size of up to 90cm (3 feet) under ideal conditions and is deeply pinnatifid (incised and lobed) with 5 to 10 lobe segments on each side of the leaf blade. However, Philodendron radiatum has been observed growing on the ground as well as on stone.
Since Philodendron radiatum is highly variable and takes on many forms apparently someone felt one of the numerous intermediate growth forms of the plant deserved a totally new name so they tried to give it the misnomer "Philodendron barryii". Perhaps it was someone named Barry who just wanted a plant named after himself! This is a scientifically name species known as Monstera barrieri , but there is no such scientific name as "Philodendron barryii"!
The science of naming a plant is technical and requires a lengthy process which verifies scientifically many factors including the plant has not previously been identified. One other scientist attempted to name this species Philodendron impolitum, but that name is now considered simply a synonym of Philodendron radiatum. Obviously, whoever knighted this one "Philodendron barryii" had neither a scientific background nor did their homework. To be officially named a plant must be published by a recognized botanical scientist in a scientific journal. Philodendron radiatum was identified scientifically in 1853 but I have no idea when someone attempted to give it the name "barryii". It may be understandable someone thought they had a new species since Philodendron radiatum has many growth forms. At least ten variations have been observed in Mexico, Central America, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, parts of Brazil and a few Caribbean islands.
In 2004 I found this interesting multi-lobed plant being sold on eBay as Philodendron "barryii". Botanist Dr. Tom Croat's journal on Central American Philodendron sp. does not list that name. The text Aroids, Plants of the Arum Family does not recognize "P. barryii", as do none of the recognized resources such as the International Plant Names Index, TROPICOS (a service of the Missouri Botanical Garden), GRIN, ePIC or the Royal Botanic Garden Kew in London. Not one major botanical collection recognizes the name.
The seller informed me that "P. barryii" was the name she had known it by for years and another collector had assured her the name was scientific. She insisted the plant was very rare and was new to science. So "rare", apparently no recognized botanist even knew it existed! I could not find any technical information! None! But she also said she sold a lot of them. A "lot of plants" and "rare" are two terms that do not fit well together in my understanding of truly rare plant species. So I sent the photo of "P. barryii" to several botanists and knowledgeable collectors. None had ever heard of "P. barryii". The chase to find out what the plant actually was known in science had begun.
One very knowledgeable scientist said although he did not recognize the photo he felt it was likely a relative of Philodendron bipinnatifidum which is often sold as Philodendron selloum (P. selloum is no longer a recognized botanical name). He reached that conclusion due to the multiple lobes of the species. He had never heard the name "P. barryii". Another knowledgeable botanist who works for the State of Florida thought it could be a variety or throwback of P. xanadu (see that species on this site).
The seller said the plant grew like a vine. So I set out to learn about Philodendron sp. that have multiple incised lobes and produce vines. That narrowed the search down to Philodendron pedatum, Philodendron laciniatum, Philodendron quercifolium, (for more information on those species click this link) Philodendron radiatum and quite a few others. One well known rare collector had an identical photo of the plant offered for sale on eBay on his website noted as Philodendron quercifolium but told me the plant was probably P. pedatum. He also noted that plant vines. Although they don't look exactly alike most botanists consider the first three listed to be the same species, just synonyms (same plant, other name). Like many Philodendron sp., these are variable and take on multiple blade forms. And when I uncovered a photograph of Philodendron pedatum on a scientific site it looked nothing like "Philodendron barryii". Or Philodendron radiatum! (You can find Philodendron pedatum on this website, just check "Aroids and other genera in the Collection") But one grower who had the only photo of the plant I could locate on the internet listed as "P. barryii" told me he was certain "barryii" was a misnomer. With the help of recognized aroid botanist Dr. Croat of the Missouri Botanical Garden, he was certain his aroid was actually Philodendron radiatum.
After a great deal of searching, an expert retail grower who I trust told me they also knew the plant as Philodendron radiatum. Finally, two collector/growers and one botanist with the same conclusion! I was also told by the second grower they had it growing all over a large tree and it certainly was not rare but was in fact a climbing vine! The chase was about to end.
In the meantime the original eBay seller was quite certain the species was truly "Philodendron barryii". It was her belief the plant was was so rare no botanist even knew it existed! That would be a miracle since recognized botanists are the scientists who give plants their names! If it truly had a name, it had to be a published species. Otherwise that name was simply a "common name"! And common names have no bearing in science. That meant some botanist somewhere had to have described it to science or the name was invalid. And for certain that published name would be recorded in one of the recognized databases.
During my reading I came across an interesting quote. This quote from page 213 of the book Aroids, Plants of the Arum Family resolves the dilemma: "Philodendron seedlings have heart shaped leaves, but subsequent growth may go through a succession of leaf sizes and shapes until the final adult stage is reached. Philodendron radiatum is a good example, beginning with entire blades and becoming increasingly incised so that mature foliage is pinnatifid (cut almost to the midrib)." finally, an explanation!
I had already observed the changes in Philodendron species as they grew in my own atrium. What the the text was saying was the plant changes dramatically as it grows from a juvenile with an oval blade to a plant with multiply incised lobes. Every step along the way produces what appears to be a new plant species! Philodendron radiatum has many different shapes!
According to the scientific text published by botanist Heinrich Wilhelm Schott, there are variations of P. radiatum, "Philodendron radiatum has variations, the typical variety having more deeply divided leaf blades with the segments often incised almost to the midrib and P. radiatum var. pseudoradiatum with the blades only weakly incised-lobate (less than half the distance to the midrib)." Most Philodendron sp. have variations, we tend to collect and grow only the ones we consider the most beautiful. And the misnomer "barryii" is nothing more than a pre-adult form of Philodendron radiatum. "P. barryii" is not a species!
All Philodendron species are aroids. An aroid is a plant that reproduces by growing an inflorescence known to science as a spathe and spadix. Some believe the spathe is a "flower" which is incorrect. The spathe is simply a modified leaf appearing to be a hood and is sometimes shaped like a tube. When an aroid is referred to as "flowering" the reference is to the very small flowers found on the spadix and the term has nothing to do with the spathe. Within the inflorescence there are extremely small flowers found on the spadix during anthesis (sexual reproduction). The spadix is found at the center of the inflorescence. When ready to reproduce, the spadix produces both male, female and sterile flowers and if the female flowers are pollinated with pollen brought by an appropriate insect (normally a beetle from the genus Cyclocephala) from another plant which is at male anthesis they will produce berries containing seeds. The spathe and spadix (inflorescence) of Philodendron radiatum measures 20 to 26cm (8 to 10 inches) in size. The spathe tube is green and is heavily tinged with red while the inside is dark purple-violet.
Being a rain forest plant if you are growing this species use good soil mixed with peat, Perlite™ and orchid bark added for good drainage. The soil should be kept damp but not soggy.
The inset photos above of an intermediate (right) and adult growth form (left) were provided by Natural Selections Exotics in Fort Lauderdale. The main photo is the plant sold as "Philodendron barryii".
Want to learn more about aroids?
Join the International Aroid Society: http://www.exoticrainforest.com/Join%20IAS.html
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