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Dracunculus - Philodendron

(Arum family)


Dracunculus vulgaris Schott
[syn. Arum dracunculus L.]
Dragon Arum

This is the Drakontium of Hippocrates. The root is irritant (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

Epipremnum aureum Bunting
[syns Pothos aureus Linden, Rhaphidophora aurea Birdsey, Scindapsus aureus Engl.]
Hunter's Robe, Taro Vine, Pothos, Devil's Ivy, Solomon Island Ivy

The juice is irritant and a frequent cause of dermatitis. Florida nurserymen who cut up stems for propagation commonly complain of "pothos poisoning". Contact with the sap can cause dermatitis (Hardin & Arena 1974, Morton 1971) and biting into the stem has caused irritation of the mouth and tongue (Morton 1962a, 1971). The plants contain needle-sharp raphides of calcium oxalate (Souder 1963).

A case of allergic contact dermatitis caused by the plant was reported by Mobacken (1975). Patch tests were negative in 21 controls.

Epipremnum giganteum Schott
[syn. Rhaphidophora gigantea Ridl.]

This species is reported to be irritant. The liquid contained in the spathe of the flowers is very irritating. When the fruit decays, bast cells and needle-shaped crystals are liberated. Malays are reluctant to touch the fruit as the irritant dust may cause blindness (Gimlette 1929).

Homalomena Schott

The rhizomes of some species are slightly irritant (Burkill 1935).

Monstera Schott

This genus of 50 species of climbers and epiphytes occurs in the West Indies and Tropical America.

All species contain caustic and vesicant sap. The unripe fruit contains calcium oxalate crystals (Allen 1943).

Monstera deliciosa Liebm.
[syn. Philodendron pertusum Kunth & C.D.Bouché]
Ceriman, Fruit-Salad Plant, Mexican Breadfruit, Swiss Cheese Plant, Hurricane Plant, Piñanona

This climbing plant is very widely grown. The unripe fruit is acrid, but becoming edible when ripe. Dahlgren & Standley (1944) caution that the unripe fruit contains needle-like crystals that irritate the mouth. Irritation of the throat may develop if all remains of the flower are not removed (Burkill 1935), and the fruit may cause a rapidly developing urticaria (MacPherson 1929, Francis & Southcott 1967). The spadix is also edible (Hurst 1942).

Monstera adansonii Schott
[syn. Monstera pertusa Vriese]


Monstera dilacerata K.Koch


Monstera epipremnoides Engl.
[syns Monstera schleichtleinii, Monstera leichtleinii — both of no botanical standing]


Monstera friedrichsthalii Schott

These species are reported to be irritant (Allen 1943, Souder 1963).

Monstera irritans N.W.Simmonds

This species is named for the irritant cells formed abundantly in the apex of the gynoecia as the fruits ripen (Simmonds 1950).

Montrichardia arborescens Schott
[syn. Montrichardia aculeatum Crueg.]
Rabano, Boroboro

The abundant sap of this plant has caused dermatitis in labourers cutting it with a machete. Erythema develops immediately on contact with the sap and fades in 24–72 hours (Dao 1967).

Philodendron Schott

About 275 species occur, notably in tropical and sub-tropical America and in the West Indies. Several species are popular as house plants in temperate regions, and the erratic specific nomenclature of the florists tends to be copied in medical reports. The species names have, for example, been used in meaningless isolation.

Ayres & Ayres (1958) reported 12 cases of dermatitis. Conjunctivitis from contact and stomatitis from ingestion have also been noted (Everist 1972).

Some species are irritant, and some can sensitise. Hjorth (1966a) observed no positive patch test reactions in 93 patients tested over a period of six years with an unidentified philodendron. Dermatitis from a Philodendron was reported by Zina & Bonu (1960). The patient also showed a positive patch test reaction to Primula L. (fam. Primulaceae) flowers and leaves.

Philodendron bipinnatifidum Schott

This plant contains intensely irritating crystals of calcium oxalate (Souder 1963).

Philodendron consanguineum Schott

Contact dermatitis caused by this species has been reported (Pardo-Castello 1923). Photodermatitis reported by Engel & Horn (1972) requires further evaluation since no plant in this family has been shown to contain either photoirritants or photoallergens.

Philodendron cordatum Kunth
Heart Leaf

This species is particularly favoured as a house plant. It has been reported to cause dermatitis (Ayres & Ayres 1958).

Lewis & Elvin-Lewis (1977) state that the leaf juice from this species, after mixing with soap, has been used in Brazil to treat eczema.

Philodendron hastatum K.Koch & Sello


Philodendron Schott cv. Jaluit


Philodendron selloum K.Koch

These plants contain calcium oxalate raphides (Souder 1963). Philodendron selloum is reported to have caused dermatitis (Ayres & Ayres 1958).

Philodendron Schott cv. Rubrum

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Philodendron scandens K.Koch & Sello subsp. scandens
[syns Arum hederaceum Jacq., Philodendron acrocardium Schott, Philodendron cuspidatum K.Koch & C.D.Bouché, Philodendron deviatum Schott, Philodendron hederaceum Schott, Philodendron hoffmannii Schott, Philodendron jacquinii Schott, Philodendron micans Klotzsch ex K.Koch, Philodendron microphyllum K.Koch, Philodendron oxycardium Schott, Philodendron prieurianum Schott, Philodendron scandens K.Koch & Sello, var. cuspidatum Engl., Pothos hederaceus Aubl.]
Heart Leaf Philodendron, Sweetheart Plant, Vilevine

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Philodendron scandens K.Koch & Sello subsp. oxycardium G.S.Bunting
[syns Philodendron hederaceum Schott subsp. oxycardium Croat, Philodendron oxycardium Engl.]
Heart Leaf, Parlour Ivy, Sweetheart Plant

A common indoor pot-plant identified as Philodendron Scandens cardatum [sic] but now recognised as Philodendron scandens subsp. oxycardium caused dermatitis of the face, neck, hands, and arms in a commercial greenhouse worker (Dorsey 1958). A patch test with wet crushed stem and leaf was positive. Dermatitis was said to be not uncommon in commercial nursery workers. Earlier, Harris (1942) had reported dermatitis of the eyelids in a housewife from the same mis-named taxon.

Allergic contact sensitivity to this taxon, the parlor ivy, has been described by Hammershøy & Verdich (1980). Positive patch test reactions to the leaves, stem, and ether extract were observed. Cross sensitivity was observed in the various patients to Philodendron tuxtlanum Bunting, Monstera friedrichsthalii, and Monstera deliciosa, but not to Philodendron bipinnatifidum.

Philodendron simsii Sweet

This species is reported to be irritant (Pammel 1911).

Philodendron speciosum Schott

Contact dermatitis caused by this species has been reported (Ayres & Ayres 1958).

Richard J. Schmidt

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