Dieffenbachia (dumb cane)
Dieffenbachia bowmannii
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Alismatales
Family: Araceae
Subfamily: Aroideae
Tribe: Dieffenbachieae
Genus: Dieffenbachia

See text.

Dieffenbachia (play /ˌdfɨnˈbækiə/)[1] is a genus of tropical plants in the Family Araceae noted for their patterned leaves. Members of this genus are popular as houseplants because of their tolerance for shade. The common name is 'dumb cane' due to its poisoning effect on the throat due to raphides. The dieffenbachia was named by Heinrich Wilhelm Schott, the director of the Botanical gardens in Vienna, to honour his head gardener Joseph Dieffenbach (1796–1863).


Favourable conditions for houseplants

Dieffenbachia plants can grow outdoors in tropical climates, but specimens kept as houseplants must be kept indoors during most of the year outside the tropics. Temperatures below about 10˚C (40˚F) can kill the plant. The plant needs light but filtered sunlight through a window is usually sufficient. When the plant is brought home from the nursery, it will likely need repotting. The plant needs moderately moist soil. The soil should be fertilized with either regular liquid fertilizing or fertilizer pellets or spiky spikes. Leaves will periodically roll up and fall off to make way for new leaves. Yellowing of the leaves is generally a sign of problematic conditions, such as a nutrient deficiency in the soil. Dieffenbachia responds well to hot temperatures and dry climates.

Dieffenbachia flower

Selected species


Dieffenbachia’s inflorescence

The cells of the Dieffenbachia plant contain needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals called raphides. If a leaf is chewed, these crystals can cause a temporary burning sensation and erythema. In rare cases, edema of tissues exposed to the plant have been reported. Mastication and ingestion generally result in only mild symptoms.[2] With both children and pets, contact with dieffenbachia (typically from chewing) can cause a host of unpleasant symptoms, including oral irritation, excessive drooling, and localized swelling.[3] However, these effects are rarely life-threatening. In most cases, symptoms are mild, and can be successfully treated with analgesic agents,[4] antihistamines,[5] or medical charcoal.[6] Gastric evacuation or lavage is "seldom"[6] indicated.[4] Jennifer S. Boyle, MD, PharmD, and Christopher P Holstege, MD, note that, "In a large retrospective study of 188 patients with plant oxalate exposure, all cases were determined to be minor and all resolved with minor or no treatment". [4] They also note that, "In patients with exposure to toxic plants, 70% are children younger than 5 years".[4]


  1. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  2. ^ Journal of Toxicology - Clinical Toxicology 29 (4): 485–91. 1991. 
  3. ^ http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/plants/dieffenbachia.html
  4. ^ a b c d "Toxicity, Plants - Caladium, Dieffenbachia, and Philodendron". emedicine. medscape.com. Updated: Dec 9, 2008. pp. 5. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1009003-overview. Retrieved 2009-03-17. 
  5. ^ GN Lucas - Sri Lanka Journal of Child Health, 2008 - http://www.srilankacollegeofpaediatricians.com/pubs/Microsoft%20Word%20-%20CC%20de%20Silva%20Oration%20Plant%20poisonin.pdf
  6. ^ a b Human & Experimental Toxicology, Vol. 15, No. 3, 245-249 (1996) DOI: 10.1177/096032719601500310


  • Schott, H. W. and Kunst, W. Z. (1829). Für Liebhaber der Botanik.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Dieffenbachia — Dieffenbachia …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Dieffenbachia — n. a genus of evergreen perennial herbs of tropical America with lush foliage and poisonous sap; often cultivated as houseplants. Syn: genus {Dieffenbachia}. [WordNet 1.5] || …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Dieffenbachia — La Dieffenbachia es un género de plantas tropicales frecuentemente utilizadas en jardinería. Introducida en Europa a finales del siglo XIX, proviene fundamentalmente de las selvas vírgenes de América Central y América del Sur. Se conocen cerca de …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • dieffenbachia — [dēf΄ən bak′ē ə] n. [ModL, after Ernst Dieffenbach (1811 55), 19th c. Ger botanist + ia, IA] any of a genus (Dieffenbachia) of tropical plants of the arum family, with thick, fleshy jointed stems and large leaves, dark green and often splashed… …   English World dictionary

  • Dieffenbachĭa — (D. Schott.), aus der Familie Aroideae; Art: D. Seguine Schott. s. Arum seguinum L …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Dieffenbachĭa — Schott, Gattung der Arazeen, Halbsträucher oder baumartig, mit großen, länglichen bis eiförmigen, oft weiß und gelb gefleckten Blättern und grüner oder gelber Blütenscheide, die bis zur Fruchtreife frisch bleibt, wächst in mehreren Arten im… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • dieffenbachia — ● dieffenbachia nom masculin (de Dieffenbach, nom propre) Belle plante d appartement, originaire d Amérique tropicale …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Dieffenbachia — Dieffenbac …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Dieffenbachia — Dieffenbachien Dieffenbachia bowmannii Systematik Unterklasse: Froschlöffelähnliche (Alismatidae) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Dieffenbachia —   Dieffenbachia Dieffenbachia bowman …   Wikipedia Español

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