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Genus of the Week

Week of Mar. 16 - 22

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This page has been created for people who want to learn more about plants, especially in the context of their taxonomy (Latin names, etc.). This is by no means an exhaustive list of all available Web resources on a particular genus.

This week's genus:


Subclass: Monocotyledoneae
Superorder: Arecidae
Order: Arales
Family: Araceae: The Aroids
Number of Species: Less than 50
Root: Named for the 19th century German botanist J. F. Dieffenbach, who was in charge of the gardens at Schönbrunn Castle in Vienna.

Dieffenbachia, also known as "Dumbcane" or "Mother-in-Law's Tongue" , is a tropical genus commonly found as a houseplant in North America. As houseplants they tolerate a certain amount of neglect and lack of sunlight. The common names refer to the fact that this genus is poisonous if ingested; the calcium oxalate crystals in the leaves cause pain and swelling in the mouth and throat and can prevent speech. Anyone handling a plant of this genus should take care to avoid the sap.

Here are a few links to images and descriptions of different Dieffenbachia species:


  1. Crockett, James Underwood. Crockett's Indoor Garden. Boston, Little, Brown and Company: 1978.
  2. Heywood, V.H., ed. Flowering Plants of the World. New York, Oxford University Press: 1993.

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