An Anthurium Introduction, Part 1!

Discussion in 'Araceae' started by photopro, Oct 25, 2007.

  1. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    It appears some believe there is only one form of Anthurium. There are many. So here is a basic primer regarding the genus Anthurium.

    There are an estimated 800 botanically described species of Anthurium currently known to science. They are found throughout southern Mexico, Central America and much of South America with a few species found in the West Indies. But aroid botanists know there may be an equal number of unidentified species still not located and described in the rain forests of many South American countries, especially Ecuador and Colombia. The vast majority of the rarest and most beautiful forms are located on the western slopes of the Andes Mountains.

    Despite an increasing number of articles on the internet which appear to claim up to fifty Anthurium species are found naturally in Southeast Asia, scientifically none are endemic in that part of the world. One internet "encyclopedia" appears to be the source of the dubious information. Aroid expert Julius Boos recently wrote, "Anthurium is a neotropical genus and does not occur naturally anywhere outside the neo-tropics!" It appears any Anthurium species found in Asia, the South Pacific, or Indonesian rain forests were introduced by plant collectors. These species are not found naturally in these regions of the world.

    The genus Anthurium is now found in many South Pacific islands, but only as an introduced species. In Hawaii, many species can be found currently in cultivation since the genus is used to hybridize many hybrid variations. But all were introduced. Anthurium species are members of a larger group known as Araceae (aroids). There are in fact members of the larger group Araceae found in SE Asia, but these do not include Anthurium or Philodendron species. For further scientific reference, please read this work by botanist Dr. Croat: http://www.aroid.org/genera/anthurium/abstrap1.htm

    Each year, aroid specialists like Dr. Tom Croat of the Missouri Botanical Garden, who is considered one of the world's leading experts in this aroid genus, trek deep into the rain forest with the assistance of students and researchers in order to locate, photograph, collect and describe these new species. Some are so beautiful and odd, they defy belief.

    The interest in species such as Anthurium jenmanii in SE Asia has begun to drive the price of numerous species upwards. As a result, questions via internet search engines regarding Anthurium species are frequently asked. One popular question often typed into an internet search engine is asking in one form or another "How do I grow Anthurium species?", "How do I pot an Anthurium?", or they ask about the care and culture of some Anthurium species. Two truly strange questions are "Can I grow an Anthurium in water?" and "Name all aquatic Anthurium species". According to Dr. Croat, there is no such thing as an aquatic Anthurium. Anthurium species are grown more like orchids than perhaps any other plant group other than Philodendron species. They most often live in a tree, not in soil. And the certainly aren't found growing in water. More is explained later in this article on the subject of growing Anthurium on volcanic rock.

    Anthurium species are very popular as house plants. Almost anyone who goes on vacation to Hawaii is at least tempted to bring home an Anthurium. The vast majority of the plants grown in Hawaii are hybrid varieties, not species. Most are hybridized from a species known to science as Anthurium andreanum. That base species is not native to Hawaii, it is primarily found in northwest Ecuador and western Colombia. But it is perfect for use to hybridize 'house plants' since it produces a colorful spathe and spadix.

    All Anthurium species are aroids. An aroid is a plant that reproduces by producing an inflorescence known to science as a spathe which is in fact a modified leaf. The inflorescence, which is sometimes shaped like cupped hands is made up of several parts. Chiefly the portion that appears to be a "flower" is the spathe and inside that is the spadix which somewhat resembles an elongated pine cone. Many people think the spathe is the "flower", but technically, the tiny flowers are found on the spadix at the center of the inflorescence. Once the flowers on the spadix have been fertilized they will eventually produce berries which can range in color. When in fruit the entire structure is known to a scientist as an infructesence.

    When ready to reproduce, the spadix produces both male and female flowers. Noted aroid expert Julius Boos explained, "In one group of aroids, these occur in separate male and female zones, often separated by a sterile region. In the other group the male and female flowers occur mixed closely together throughout the entire length of the spadix." The tiny male flowers produce pollen and the tiny female flowers are designed to be receptive to pollen. However, most are cleverly divided by nature to keep the plant from being self-pollinated. Nature's preferred method is to have insects pick up the pollen from one plant and carry it to the female flowers of another plant in order keep the species strong.

    But in the case of Anthurium species, many are very promiscuous. They will easily cross pollinate with any other Anthurium that is a member of a similar "section". As a result, there are likely as many hybrid varieties as there are species! Hawaiian growers love to create new varieties and sometimes go so far as to try to introduce their hybrids as "new species". Unless you are a trained aroid botanist, it is often quite difficult to see the difference in a hybrid and a true species.

    The majority of aroids require a specific insect to do the work of pollination. If that insect is not present, it is unlikely the plant will be pollinated naturally. If pollinated by that "assigned" insect, the spadix can produce fruit which can vary in color from red to purple, green, white, or shades of these colors. Eventually the fruit berry ripens and contains seeds. Those fruit are how the Anthurium reproduces itself once a bird eats the fruit or a seed falls to the ground. Anthurium species can also reproduce from divisions, but it is not possible to propagate them by planting leaves! Simply trying to pot a leaf won't grow anything! There are a very few aroids which can reproduce by planting leaves, but Anthurium species are not in that group.

    Botanists divide Anthurium species into "sections". Those sections often are used to categorize the various leaf structures into specific groups. As an example, section Cardiolonchium contains the species with leaf surfaces that feel and look like "velvet". This group is particularly beautiful and contains many of the most sought after species of Anthurium. Well known members of the section include Anthurium regale, Anthurium crystallinum, A. magnificum and A. warocqueanum. Frequently collected species are sometimes known as "birds nest" forms. That group is section Pachyneurium. The largest specimen of this section in our personal collection is Anthurium schlechtendalii and is capable of producing leaves 6 feet long or longer. Other interesting members of this section include Anthurium salviniae and Anthurium plowmanii. But there are numerous other sections of Anthurium species.

    An important fact anyone interested in Anthurium species must understand is only a few Anthurium species grow in the ground in the rain forest! They can, but the majority grow up on the sides of trees or up in the canopy well above the ground. Even many of gigantic "birds nest" forms (see photo left) grow on the limb of a tree not in the soil! The ones that grow on trees are scientifically known as either epiphytes or hemiepiphytes. An epiphyte is a plant that simply grows upon another plant, normally a tree. The seed berries, once eaten and digested by a bird, are then left on a tree branch in the bird's droppings. Those seeds find just enough nutrient substances in the droppings to germinate and begin to grow on the limb of the tree. Some eventually drop roots all the way to the soil and as a result, once they pick up extra water and nutrients, grow quite large. Others begin life in the soil and then climb the tree. Those are known as the hemiepiphytes. But keep in mind, an Anthurium is not a parasite, it is an epiphyte. It simply uses the host for support.

    End of part 1, Part 2 is here: http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/forums/showthread.php?t=32906
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2007
  2. Sigtris

    Sigtris Active Member

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    Steve thank you for the your clear and easy to read explanation about Anthurium, other website like the Aroid International Society have a lot of information but to someone
    like me (who just likes plants) it is almost impossible to understand all the botanic
    words. You put it in simple English so thank you again
     
  3. Karalyn

    Karalyn Active Member

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    I DITTO THIS QUOTE! Thanks, Steve!
     
  4. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    To you both, and to those who send me private mail almost daily, my sincere thanks.

    From the very beginning of my effort to share information regarding aroids I have made a constant effort to make the practical aspects of growing plants in this group understandable. Some have no desire to understand the scientific viewpoint, but some do. Most people pick up a botanical journal and lay it down in just a few minutes. The terminology is often confusing and less than easy to understand for most plant "nuts". I make no claim to being a scientist, and I'm certainly a long way from being an expert, but I love to try to understand what the scientific minds write! So if I've helped you both to understand just a bit more about aroids, I've succeeded. So thanks very much for your comments. I sincerely appreciate the feedback. I always have, and always will.
     

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