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Dieffenbachia (dumb cane)
Dieffenbachia bowmannii
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Alismatales
Family: Araceae
Subfamily: Aroideae
Tribe: Dieffenbachieae
Genus: Dieffenbachia

See text.

Dieffenbachia /ˌdfɨnˈbækiə/[1] is a genus of tropical flowering plants in the family Araceae. It is a perennial herbaceous plant with straight stem, simple and alternate leaves containing white spots and flecks, making it attractive as indoor foliage. Species in this genus are popular as houseplants because of their tolerance of shade. The common name, "dumb cane" refers to the poisoning effect of raphides. It is also known as the "Mother-in-law" plant. Dieffenbachia was named by Heinrich Wilhelm Schott, the Director of the Botanical Gardens in Vienna, to honor his head gardener Joseph Dieffenbach (1796–1863).


Dieffenbachia flower

With a minimum temperature of 5 °C (41 °F), dieffenbachia must be grown indoors in temperate areas. They need light, but filtered sunlight through a window is usually sufficient. They also need moderately moist soil, which should be regularly fertilized with a proprietary houseplant fertilizer. Leaves will periodically roll up and fall off to make way for new leaves. Yellowing of the leaves is generally a sign of problematic conditions, such as a nutrient deficiency in the soil. Dieffenbachia respond well to hot temperatures and dry climates.

Numerous cultivars have been selected. The cultivars 'Camille'[2] and 'Tropic Snow'[3] have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.

Selected species[edit]

Cancer treatment[edit]

In the Philippines, dumb cane plant is being studied; researchers have found that dumb cane plant contains active ingredients that cause antiangiogenic effect[4] potential for the treatment of cancer. Antiangiogenesis is a process that inhibits the growth and development of new blood vessels in the body.

Antiangiogenesis controls the spread of tumour cells in the body by disabling the transport of nutrients toward the cancerous cells. Normally, tumour starts from a single cell and divides to make more cancer cells. The growth of malignant cells will depend on the availability of specific nutrients being transported by blood vessels.[5]

Findings of the study claimed that dumb cane’s ability to prevent blood vessel growth and development can be possibly used in the formulation of anti-cancer drug to help prevent the spread of cancer cells in the human body.

Other uses[edit]

In Brazil the plant is said to ward against "negative energies" and "evil eye", etc. Because of this, it is commonly placed on a "seven lucky herbs" vase, along with common rue, Capsicum annuum, snake plant, basil, rosemary and Petiveria alliacea.[6]


Dieffenbachia’s inflorescence

The cells of the Dieffenbachia plant contain needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals called raphides. If a leaf is chewed, these crystals can cause a temporary burning sensation and erythema. In rare cases, edema of tissues exposed to the plant has been reported. Mastication and ingestion generally result in only mild symptoms.[7] With both children and pets, contact with dieffenbachia (typically from chewing) can cause a host of unpleasant symptoms, including intense numbing, oral irritation, excessive drooling, and localized swelling.[8] However, these effects are rarely life-threatening. In most cases, symptoms are mild, and can be successfully treated with analgesic agents,[9] antihistamines,[10] or medical charcoal.[11][12] Gastric evacuation or lavage is "seldom"[11] indicated. In patients with exposure to toxic plants, 70% are children younger than 5 years.


  1. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  2. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Dieffenbachia 'Camille'". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  3. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Dieffenbachia 'Tropic Snow'". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  4. ^ http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/targeted_therapies/2006_07/question_07
  5. ^ http://www.worldngayon.com/2013/07/dumb-cane-plant-uses/
  6. ^ Franco Guizetti. "Conheça o poder e a proteção das sete ervas" (in Portuguese). Retrieved Jan 19, 2012. 
  7. ^ Journal of Toxicology - Clinical Toxicology. 29 (4): 485–91. 1991. 
  8. ^ http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/plants/dieffenbachia.html
  9. ^ Boyle, Jennifer S; Holstege, Christopher P (December 9, 2008). "Toxicity, Plants - Caladium, Dieffenbachia, and Philodendron". emedicine. medscape.com. p. 5. Retrieved 2009-03-17. 
  10. ^ GN Lucas - Sri Lanka Journal of Child Health, 2008 - http://www.srilankacollegeofpaediatricians.com/pubs/Microsoft%20Word%20-%20CC%20de%20Silva%20Oration%20Plant%20poisonin.pdf
  11. ^ a b Human & Experimental Toxicology, Vol. 15, No. 3, 245-249 (1996) doi:10.1177/096032719601500310
  12. ^ Snajdauf, J.; Mixa, V.; Rygl, M.; Vyhnánek, M.; Morávek, J.; Kabelka, Z. (Dec 9, 2003). "Aortoesophageal fistula--an unusual complication of esophagitis caused by Dieffenbachia ingestion.". J Pediatr Surg. (Elsevier). 


  • Schott, H. W. and Kunst, W. Z. (1829). Für Liebhaber der Botanik.

External links[edit]