alright, i gotta admit – philodendrons are my absolute favourite plants. they are so lush and beautiful. i could sit and stare at my philo babies all day. did you know that philodendron is the second most diverse genus of the acraceae? the name philodendron is derived from ‘philo’ meaning love & ‘dendron’ meaning tree in greek. these words are used to describe this plant’s growth climbing trees. if you love philos, check out @philodendronfanatic, an ig dedicated to philodendrons.

my philodendron fam ~ back from left to right: p. mamei, p. melanochrysum, p. rojo congo, p. pastazanum; front from left to right: p. cordatum, p. micans, p. verrucosum, p. brasil, p. gloriosum  

history

the philodendron genus originated approximately 25 million years ago (canal et al., 2018). canal & colleagues (2018) found that the diversification history of philodendron is a complex process & that the rates of diversification varied by lineage. for instance, the subgenus philodendron began to diversify rapidly 12 millions years ago, while its other two subgenera diversified at a slower rate. the researchers concluded that recent geological dynamics in the neotropics are likely to have been a driver of diversification.

the origin of philodendron occurred during the beginning of the mountain uplift of the central + northern andes in the late oligocene to the early miocene (hoorn et al., 2010). research has suggested that the orogenic activity in the andes during that period facilitated the diversification of philodendron through the creation of new habitats (antonelli & sammartín, 2011; luebert & weigend, 2014).

loss-oliveira and colleagues (2016) conducted a study to examine the evolution of philodendron species in neotropical biomes. based on phylogenetic analyses and ancestral reconstruction of philodendrons along biomes, the researchers found that early diversification of philodendrons occurred in the amazon forest from the early to middle miocene, about 8.6 million years ago. during this period, wetland expansion occurred into western central amazonia resulting in the fragmentation of the rainforest and formation of extensive wetlands (jaramillo et al., 2010). atlantic forest lineages of philodendrons diverged from amazonian ancestors about 3.7 million years ago and then the majority of cerrado species evolved from atlantic forest philodendrons, from the late miocene to the pliocene, approximately 1.7 million years ago.

did you know?

philodendrons were the first plants to start the houseplant industry in the late 1930s during the depression in florida as it was cost effective to propagate philos. prior to this, the philodendron genus was brought over to england from the caribbean during a colonial mission in the late 1700s where it was then used to turn victorian spaces into indoor jungles. the botanical gardens that we visit to this day are full of plants taken from around the world & in some cases, the last plant of its kind exists in a botanical garden somewhere far away from its homeland. prior to colonization & to this day, indigenous peoples around the globe engage with plants for medicinal & cultural purposes. beyond the aesthetic quality of plants, i value my green fam for their histories & medicinal properties aka magic.

the reality is that without colonization/capitalism we wouldn’t have the contemporary houseplant industry that we all participate in. let that sink in a moment. sometimes i get deep in thought about the parallels & intersections of the movement of plants & people over land & sea. it’s bittersweet thinking about the journeys we’ve taken, how we’ve transformed the spaces we occupy, & how we will continue to transform them. both plants, especially houseplants, & people. i also think about the exploitation & the treatment of people, habitats, & animals living on the land our plants come from & the land we both currently live on. being conscious of this helps me think about how i want to engage with houseplants, who i purchase them from, how i choose to share them.

we are privileged to enjoy our houseplants & it’s important to honour this history by meaningfully engaging with decolonization & advocating for aboriginal rights by supporting their initiatives & efforts. we must also change our current capitalist system & consumerism to shift to a conscious model of living – locally & globally.

care tips

  • bright, indirect light – i keep all of mine close to east facing windows
  • water moderately and when the top of the soil is dry. during winter periods, water just so that the soil doesn’t dry out completely
  • these guys love humid environments, just like their natural habitat
  • propagate via three to four inch stem cuttings below a node

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