Curiosity may have killed the cat, but today I learned about the fascinating origins of the Philodendron. So, I thought I would share what I have learned here as others might find it interesting.
Loosely translated, Philodendron means “Love Tree”, or in other words “Tree Hugger”. The Philodendron genus as we know it was only officially categorized 193 years ago as of 2022. However, the genus was first described in manuscripts from Europe’s initial contact with Brazil in 1638 meaning we have been chopping and propping this genus for over 378 years!
The resins produced during the flowering of Philodendrons are used in nature by bees to construct their nests. The indigenous people from South America would use this resin to make their blowguns air and water tight. The berries of many species are edible. For example, the sweet tasting berries from the common Philodendron Selloum were used by locals as a natural substitute for sugar. Additionally, the aerial roots for this species is used for making ropes. The leaves of most philodendrons are also a natural laxative.
Many other philodendron leaves, when fermented, produce a poison capable of temporarily stunning fish when added to water, which rise to to the surface, where they can easily be collected. Also, the red pigment from a fresh cut Philodendron was one of the most popular dyes exported from the “New World” back to Europe during the colonization of the area.
Something to think about the next time you are admiring your Philodendron collection :)