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Project Name Data (Last Modified On 10/25/2012)

Flora Data (Last Modified On 10/25/2012)
PlaceOfPublication Wien. Zeitschr. Kunst 3:820. 1829.
Description Plants low or rather tall, terrestrial, the caudices thick, often elongate, pros- trate, and rooting, the sap milky; petioles long, vaginate to the middle or higher, terete above; blades oblong, very thick and fleshy when living, the costa thick, disappearing toward the apex of the blade, the primary lateral nerves numerous, ascending, arcuate toward the margin, not united into a collective nerve; pedun- cles shorter than the leaves, the spathe oblong, persistent, the lower portion convolute, open at the throat and expanded into a spreading or recurved limb; spadix erect, slightly shorter than the spathe, often stipitiform at the base and adnate to the spathe, the pistillate portion of the spadix remotely many-flowered, the staminate part subcylindric, densely many-flowered, separated from the pistil- late by an almost naked interval; flowers unisexual, naked; staminate flowers with 4 stamens, these connate to form a sessile, thick, 4- or 5-sulcate synandrium trun- cate at the apex; anthers contiguous, the cells obovoid, opening by an apical slit; pistillate flowers with 4-5 claviform staminodia, these rounded at the thickened apex, longer than the ovary, spreading; pistil 2- or 3-carpellate, sessile, depressed- ovoid, 2- or 3-lobate, 2- or 3-celled, sometimes 1-carpellate; ovules 1 in each cell, erect, anatropous; style none, the stigma 2- or 3-lobate, concave in the middle, the lobes thick; fruit baccate, 2- or 3-lobate or globose, crowned by the remnants of the stigma, 1- to 3-celled, the cells 1-seeded; seeds globose or ovoid, the testa thick, smooth; endosperm none.
Distribution The group consists of about 27 species, in Central and South America, six of them reported from Central America.
Note The plants grow chiefly in damp or often very wet forest, where they sometimes form large, dense stands. When cut or crushed, they emit a strong, mephitic odor. The milky or yellowish sap is abun- dant, and is reported everywhere to cause serious irritation if it comes into contact with the skin. In the forest one often finds scattered plants whose normally green leaves are blotched with white or pale yellow. Such plants, as well as the normal green-leaved ones, have been introduced into cultivation in the North, and are sometimes seen as house plants. To such greenhouse plants the name "Mother- in-law. Plant" has sometimes been given in the United States, an allusion to the fact that if a piece of the leaf is chewed (a rather dangerous experiment), sensa- tion in the tongue is destroyed temporarily, sometimes with loss of the power of speech. The ripe fruits of all or most species are bright red at maturity, suggesting those of the "Jack-in-the-pulpit" (Arisaema) of the United States, a member of the same family. About the Canal Zone the Dieffenbachias are called OtM de Lagarto, and by the West Indians "Dumb Cane," the derivation of the latter being similar to that of "Mother-in-law Plant."
Common OtM de Lagarto Dumb Cane
Common Mother-in-law Plant
Key a. Sheath of the petiole extending almost to the base of the leaf blade. Spathe green ------------- ---- 1. D. PITTIERI aa. Sheath of the petiole ending far below the base of the leaf blade. b. Spathes green, about 30 cm. long -2. D. LONGISPATHA bb. Spathes yellow or orange at maturity, mostly less than 20 cm. long. c. Leaf blades rounded at the base, the primary lateral nerves 6-9 on each side - _ - - -- --3. D. OERSTEDII cc. Leaf blades cordate at the base, the primary lateral nerves about 18 on each side ----- 4. D. AURANTIACA
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