Philodendron bipinnatifidum flowering process

In the winter of 2013, my large Tree Philodendron (aka P. bipinnatifidum) blew over in a heavy gust of wind.  I thought it was a goner but instead of dying it grew sideways and spiked a separate, upward reaching trunk (visible in the left corner of this photo directly behind the bromeliads.)

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Apparently it’s healthier than I imagined!  For the first time in 4.5yrs, a cluster of flowers is forming!!

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P. bipinnatifidum is a species within the Arum family, and like others in this group has flowers consisting of an upright hood (aka spathe) enclosing a spadix of many tiny petalless flowers. The spadix emerges and retracts over a two day period.  I took the above photo yesterday during day 1 of the cycle.

The spadix holds more than 3000 florets, with the uppermost being fertile males. I got a decent close-up today so you could see what they look like.  Now it’s Day 2 of the reproductive cycle, and the spadix is almost fully retracted into the hood.

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The female flowers are located at the base of the spadix, separated by sterile males that produce heat to aid fertilization. During the 2 day cycle, the spadix maintains a temperature of 114F, regardless of the ambient air temp. No other plant on Earth is known to utilize fat to fuel energy-intensive reactions.  All other plants burn sugar, making P. binnatifidum a true oddity!

There are two other structures worth noting, the first being cataphylls.

Philodendrons have modified leaves called cataphylls that surround and protect any newly forming true leaves. These protective shields are deciduous, meaning they curl back, turn brown and eventually detach along the leaf nodes.  Also found at the nodes are brown, ropelike aerial roots that drop like anchors and meander along the ground (and through fences, too!) until they find a suitable spot to support the plant and collect the water and nutrients it needs. The next pic shows a few aerial roots and the beginnings of a cataphyll process.

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Tree philodendrons are virtually pest free, and non invasive in zones 9-11.  Although most often grown in shade, they do equally well in locations with early morning and/or late day sun.   When fully mature (as mine seems to be) they have a spread of 8-10′, so use caution if planting more than one

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Until next time…..

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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17 thoughts on “Philodendron bipinnatifidum flowering process

    • I try…I try… 😉
      Actually, when I first noticed the spadix, I sent Maggie a picture captioned “DizzzzzGUSTing!” (if you get the angle just right it can be REALLY disgusting, so I left that shot out of the post! hahaha). When I got out of my juvenile mindset I decided it might be worth looking up and writing about.

  1. excellent and informative; this beautiful plant thrives in south Florida (in the right location) and your thoroughly informative article helps
    erase some of the mysteries concerning it. great photos!!!

    • Isn’t this a most interesting plant? In the 4+ years I’ve gardened in this yard, I never saw a spathe until now. No online info either to indicate how often or how big/old these plants need to be before it happens, either…but I’ll keep looking! 🙂

    • I think they’re very finnicky about blooming….One commenter above said he’s seen them bloom yearly in South Africa, but this is def the first time mine had flowered in 4.5yrs. I know I’ll be watching closely next summer to see if it does it again!

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