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The Exotic Rainforest
Plants in the Exotic Rainforest Collection
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Within our collection we have many species of Philodendron.  If you are seeking other photos, click this link

Philodendron tenue K. Koch & Augustin
Philodendron tenue K. Koch & Augustin, Photo Copyright 2009, Steve Lucas,

 Philodendron tenue K. Koch & Augustin

Philodendron ecuadorense, Philodendron gracile, Philodendron sodiroanum 
Philodendron tenue is normally found as a hemiepiphytic climbing vine.  A hemiepiphyte (hem-a-EPA-fit) is a species that can begin life by climbing a host tree or as a seed placed on a branch in a bird's droppings that eventually grows roots to the ground.  The species is rarely either terrestrial or purely epiphytic.  An epiphyte (ep-a-FIT) is simply a species that grows attached to another plant such as a tree.
Philodendron tenue is also an appressed climber, appressed species grow with the leaves pressed close to the host tree.  The petioles that support the leaf blades can measure from 29cm to 107cm (11.4 to 42 inches) in length.  The species was described to science in 1854,
Philodendron tenue is found from Nicaragua to southern Ecuador on the Pacific slope and in Venezuela along the foothills of the Sierra de Perija through the Cordillera de la Costa as well as in the foothills of the Cordillera de Merida.  In Central America it is found from 20 to 1400 meters (65 to 4600 feet) above sea level in pre-mountainous wet rain forests but is rarely found in tropical wet rain forests.  In Colombia it has been collected as high as 2300 meters (7500 feet) and in Ecuador to 1930 meters (6300 feet).  Obviously, P. tenue is found at many elevations and can be found in both very dry forest as well as tropical wet rain forests.  The species is found as far south as central  Peru.  P. tenue is a member of Philodendron section Philodendron, subsection Philodendron ser. Fibrosa partially due to its persistent cataphyll fibers.  The cataphylls are bract like modified leaves that surround a new leaf and whose purpose is to protect the newly emerging leaves as they develop.
A variable species, P. tenue is found in several forms.  The form in our photo is known to collectors as the "narrow leaf form".  The dark green leaves, which can grow to well over 60cm (two feet) stand atop petioles that can measure between 29 and 107cm (11 to 42 inches) and are vaguely semi-glossy.  The blades may also be be oval to triangularly oval with prominent posterior lobes.  The blades are considered sub-coriaceous (less than leathery).  There are at least two known forms to the leaf, one being much narrower than the other as shown in this specimen.  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 with photographic illustration as well as in non-technical language the botany of natural variation within plant species including morphogenesis.  It is estimated that one in every eight plant species known to science is variable:  Natural variation

Philodendron tenue is capable of producing four inflorescences per axil on a peduncle that measures between 2 and 11 centimeters in length (3/4 to 11 1/3 inch).  (The peduncle is the plant structure that supports the spathe and spadix and is the internode between the spathe and the last foliage leaf.  .)  The inflorescences are pale green in color, sometimes heavily tinged in red.  The spathe is thick and leathery while the fruit berries are purplish in color.  Philodendron tenue flowers during the dry season and early portions of the rainy season which in its range is normally January through August.  The species produces the majority of its inflorescences during April and May.

A note from Hawaiian grower Leland Miyano indicates  Philodendron tenue grows in his garden as an epiphyte.   Just as the scientific description states, Leland indicates he is aware of the species being found in many ecozones from very dry to very wet.  That would indicate this species can tolerate a wide variation in its care in captive growth.  He describes the species as a "Very beautiful species with almost grooved lateral veins."   On the subject of variation within a species, Leland offered these excellent words of advice, "On variable species with wide distributions, it would be a good project for collectors to record locality data.  It is surprising how different clones respond in cultivation...... disease resistance, growth rates, and many traits can be observed. even if it is not readily apparent from the morphologies that the plants are different.  Amateurs can make tremendous contributions to horticulture... especially if the habitats are subsequently destroyed." 

Philodendron tenue K. Koch & Augustin, Photo Copyright 2009, Steve Lucas, www.ExoticRainforest.comWe grow the species in a very loose soil mixture consisting of fast draining soil, peat, Perlite™, and orchid potting media containing bark, charcoal, and gravel.  We give Philodendron tenue a totem to allow it to climb and attempt to keep the potting media evenly damp.  Our specimen is obviously immature and we are seeking photos of adult specimens to add to this article.   One of our specimen came from Natural Selections Exotics in Fort Lauderdale and the parent specimen was originally collected by Lynn Hannon at Imbabuara, Ecuador.   The second was a gift from the Missouri Botanical Garden originally collected in South America as specimen 84964.

My thanks to Enid Offolter of Natural Selections Exotics for the use of her photograph.






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