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Philodendron warszewiczii K. Koch & C.D. Bouché


   Philodendron warszewiczii sub adult leaf blade Copyright Steve Lucas

 Philodendron warszewiczii K. Koch & C.D. Bouché
Common names: Guacamayo,  Cupapayo, Mano de Lión, Copapayo, Ocopayo,
Papaya de Monte

Philodendron warszewiczii juvenile leaf, Copyright 2008, Steve Lucas, www.ExoticRainforest.comAn exotically shaped Philodendron species, Philodendron warszewiczii (var-she-VICH-e-eye) from Mexico, near Jalisco to Chiapas in the southern portion of the country, southward to the country of El Salvador primarily on the Pacific side of Central America.  P. warszewiczii is also found in Honduras and Nicaragua at elevations of 300 to 1900 meters (980 to 6,250 feet) in tropical dry rain forest regions.  In Mexico, Philodendron warszewiczii is found principally in Selva Mediana Subperennifolia as well as Selva Baja Caducifolia.  The type specimen of the species was originally found and published in 1855 and was discovered in Guatemala at an elevation of 1829 meters (6000 feet).  Philodendron warszewiczii is known to occur on rocky cliffs and on steep road banks in partial shade as a terrestrial species.

A member of Philodendron section Polytomium, Philodendron warszewiczii is distinguished by its moderately thin (subcoriaceous) as well as deeply bipinnatifid (or doubly pinnatifid) leaf blades.   A bipinnatifid leaf has segments or divisions  where the primary divisions are pinnae (feather-like) as well as having secondary pinnules that are compound.

The species is often seen leafless during the dry season.  Philodendron warszewiczii is similar to Philodendron radiatum and also to Philodendron dressleri.   It differs from P. radiatum since it possesses leaf blades that are both significantly more pinnatified as well as thinner.  The stems of P. warszewiczii are also thicker.  Both species are found in similar forest regions in Mexico.  In much of Central America Philodendron radiatum is found largely in tropical moist rain forest which is substantially wetter than the tropical dry rain forest regions where Philodendron warszewiczii is commonly known to grow.

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.

Found growing terrestrially, Philodendron warszewiczii frequently grows on rocks.  However, the species is sometimes found as an epiphyte (ep-a-FIT) growing on the sides of forest trees as an appressed climbing species pressed tight against the host tree.  An appressed climber is one that grows close to the host.  Photos of the species in nature show it growing in thick clumps quite similar to the fashion landscape gardeners grow
Philodendron bipinnatifidum (often known as Philodendron selloum) in South Florida yard landscaping.  

The internodes of the Philodendron are short while the blades are semi-glossy.  The cataphylls (the structure that forms around any new leaf blade) are thin and measure 18 to 33cm (7 to 13 inches) in length. The cataphyll is the singular most important identifying characteristic of an aroid.  Aroid, palm and cycad expert Leland Miyano had these comments about the species, "I was looking in Lorenzi's book on the plants of Burle-Marx and there is a Philodendron dressleri that looks very similar to Philodendron warszewiczii.  They differ primarily in that P. dresslerii does not have as deeply lobed leaves and the photo seems to indicate that it is more prone to climbing."   In a seperate email Lelandy continued, "My plants just ramble on the ground at the moment...but perhaps it will climb.  I think that mine are seeking out the perfect light for itself...they prefer bright filtered light.  Deep shade really slows them up.   My plants are of moderate growth rate...easily grown from cuttings.  I have had mine for years but they just crawl about until it crosses a path and I cut it.  In general I'd say it is like a serpent Philodendron, snaking along the ground.  But that is in my growing conditions...every garden is different."  It is not uncommon for Philodendron warszewiczii to completely loose its leaves during the dry season and become deciduous.  The petioles that support the leaf blade typically measure 33 to 58cm (13 to 23 inches) in length but may be as long as 80cm (31.5 inches) long. The petioles are subterete to "C" shaped.  Subterete is considered just less than cylindrical. 

The leaf blades of P. warszewiczii are sagittate, or triangular in their outline.  Sagittate is the botanical term which describes any leaf that is "arrow shaped".  The blades are deeply bipinnatisect.  Bipinnatisect is defined as a leaflet which is divided into pinnae.  The term "pinnae" indicates the leaf blade is somewhat similar to a feather or multiply divided like a palm frond.  The deep divisions come to within 1 to 4cm (.4 to 1.6 inches) of the midrib and are thin, semi-glossy and slightly bicolorous (multicolored).  Adult blades can measure from 31 to 78cm (21.2 to 30.7 inches) in length as well as 30 to 62cm (12 to 24.2 inches) wide.   The blade's adaxial (upper) surface is only moderately glossy.  Only minor leaf veins are visible.

Philodendron warszewiczii is capable of producing from one to three inflorescences per axil.  On any aroid, the inflorescence is the reproductive portion of the plant that is often referred to as a "flower".  In reality, a spathe is simply a modified leaf appearing to be a hood .  The spathe and spadix together comprise the inflorescence which is supported by the peduncle.  A peduncle is the internode between the spathe and the last foliage leaf.  The peduncle may be as short as 2.5cm (1 inch) but is typically 4.5cm to as long as 16cm (1.75 to 6.25 inches) in length and is dark green in color.  Typically the spathe measures approximately 14cm to as long as 30cm (5.5 inches to 12 inches).  The interior of the spathe is pale green to white.  The spadix which is seen at the center of the inflorescence is white and measures 14 to 24cm (5.5 inches to 9.4 inches) long but may be as long as 30cm (12 inches).  The berries produced on the spadix, once fertilized, are white to pale yellow in color and are oblong to ellipsoid in shape.  Flowering appears to be somewhat rare in nature and berries are more commonly produced near the beginning of the dry season. 

Our specimen was a gift from collector Christopher Mink who lives on the west coast of Florida.  In one email note Christopher made these comments regarding Philodendron warszewiczii, "Some people say that P. warscewiczii is a self-header and does not climb.  This is not true- it climbs really fast. I rooted a huge 6' x 4" cutting in June and it has grown about 6" of new trunk, 5 new leaves and made about 6 blooms since.  I also cut 2 feet of the end of the trunk before I planted it so I could have two plants.  Very shortly after planting them both, the large cutting rooted right to the tree and bloomed.  The 2' section rooted and produced three pups.  This will be one of your favorites!"  We grow Philodendron warszewiczii as a terrestrial plant with our specimen planted in very loose soil which contains near equal percentages of rich soil, peat moss, Perlite, and orchid potting media containing bark, charcoal, and gravel.  The specimen is grown in bright shade.

My thanks to Enid Offolter of Natural Selections Exotics in Fort Lauderdale, FL  , Leland Miyano in Hawaii and Christopher Mink for the use of their photographs.  Leland's photo was taken at the Kampong in Miami, FL which is a part of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.  The specimen at the top of the page is in our collection and has not completely reached maturity.

All information for this description was extracted from Dr. Tom Croat's A Revision of Philodendron Subgenus Philodendron (Araceae) for Mexico and Central AmericaAnnals of the Missouri Botanical Garden,
Vol. 84, No. 3. (1997), pp. 311-704.








Philodendron warszewiczii, Photo Copyright Dr. Thomas B Croat, Courtesy the Missouri Botanial Garden, St. Louis


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