Dieffenbachia: Dumb cane

Family: Araceae
Common name: Dumb cane

Dumb cane is a very common, non-fussy, pretty little ornamental plant that can be grown successfully indoors or outdoors. There were email forwards some time back, saying that Dumb cane plants are dangerous, poisonous and can kill you. That’s not strictly true.

Though all parts of the plant have microscopic raphides, or calcium oxalate crystals, which when ingested can cause inflammation and some toxicity.

Prolonged exposure of mouth tissue to this toxin can cause inflammation in the mouth. In severe cases, it can cause the person to go silent; hence the name ‘Dumb cane’.

But for all practical purposes, unless you intend to eat it, Dumb cane is an ideal garden plant. The spots, stripes and variegations on the leaves, makes the plant a beautiful indoor adornment to your house.

Dumbcanes can grow to a height of 1-3 meters; and rarely blooms with white flowers. Leaves could be light green, dark green, cream or golden color with stripes, spots or blotches of white, cream or yellow colors. They need only partial or indirect sunlight, and are also drought-tolerant.

Dieffenbachia flower is long white spadix with a green spathe enclosing it. Though very rare, the plants can also produce small red berries.

There are over 50 species of Dieffenbachia, the most common ones being Dieffenbachia seguine, Dieffenbachia maculata, Dieffenbachia exotica and Dieffenbachia camilla. The plant is also said to be good at air purification.

Propagation is from stem cuttings that can be rooted in soil or in water.

Photo Courtesy: love4gardening.com

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