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Pinellia - Zantedeschia

(Arum family)


Pinellia ternata Breitenb.
[syns Pinellia tuberifera Ten., Arum ternatum Thunb.]

The fresh tuber contains a substance that is strongly irritating (Pammel 1911), and when eaten causes pharyngeal swelling which persists for several days (Kariyone 1971).

In traditional Chinese medicine, the dried tuber is known as ban xia or pan hsia. Stuart (1911), referring to Pinellia tuberifera, notes that the viscid sap of the stalk of the plant is said to restore fallen hair and whiskers. Huang (1993), referring to Pinellia ternata, states that the plant is applied externally to wounds to obtain a hemostatic and analgesic effect.

Pothos L.

The 75 species are natives of Madagascar and Indo-Malaysia, but are cultivated elsewhere in the tropics.

Pothos is used as a common name for some plants in other genera, particularly Anthurium and Scindapsus Schott species. Therefore, reports of dermatitis unsupported by reliable botanical identification should be accepted with scepticism (Kelsey & Dayton 1942).

According to Arnold (1972), these plants are the commonest cause of dermatitis in Hawai‘i, except during the fruiting season of the mango (Mangifera indica L., fam. Anacardiaceae) when the latter predominates.

The genus Pothos has been classified by Engler in the sub-family Pothoideae, which is characterised by possessing neither latex nor raphides of calcium oxalate (Willis 1973).

Pothos scandens L.

According to Burkill (1935), the leaves of this species have been used by the Malays as an external medicine applied to the abdomens of small children to cause expulsion of worms.

Sauromatum guttatum Schott
Voodoo Lily, Monarch of the East, Red Calla

This commonly grown house plant is highly irritant.

It is occasionally called Arum cornutum, a name of no botanical standing. The term voodoo lily is also applied to species of Arisaema.

Spathiphyllum Schott

Souder (1963), referring to the white anthurium Spathiphyllum cv. Clevelandii, states that this plant contains intensely irritating calcium oxalate crystals.

Spathiphyllum wallisii Regel
Peace Lily, Spathe Flower, White Sails

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Symplocarpus foetidus Salisb. ex W.P.C.Barton
[syns Dracontium foetidum L., Ictodes foetidus Bigelow, Pothos foetidus Aiton]
Skunk Cabbage, Skunkweed, Meadow Cabbage, Polecat Weed

The single species in this genus is occasionally cultivated as a bog plant, but occurs naturally in north-east Asia, Japan, and Atlantic North America.

Bigelow (1817) stated that an acrid principle exists in the roots even when perfectly dry. Cheney informed White (1887) that the root produces intolerable itching and inflammation of the skin. According to Wren (1975), the taste of the root is acrid and biting. The irritant properties, particularly of the root, are noted by Weber (1937), Lampe & Fagerström (1968), and Kingsbury (1964).

Lysichitum americanum Hultén & St. John is also known as skunk cabbage.

Syngonium podophyllum Schott
Arrowhead Vine, Nephthytis, African Evergreen

The plant contains irritating crystals of calcium oxalate (Souder 1963).

Syngonium ternatum Gleason

von Reis Altschul (1973) records that this species is very poisonous.

Typhonium angustilobum F.Muell.


Typhonium brownii Schott

The rhizomes of these two species are acrid (MacPherson 1929).

Typhonium cuspidatum Decne.

This species contains irritating crystals of calcium oxalate (Souder 1963).

Typhonium divaricatum Decne.

The tuber of this species is rubefacient (Perry & Metzger 1980).

Typhonium roxburghii Schott

The tuber is very irritant (Burkill 1935).

Typhonodorum lindleyanum Schott

The roots are edible, but poisonous unless repeatedly boiled and the water discarded (Wild 1961). See also Xanthosoma below.

Xanthosoma Schott

Of the 38–40 species, all indigenous to the American tropics, some are valued as food plants, particularly as dietary sources of starch. X. caracu K.Koch & C.D.Bouché, X. atrovirens K.Koch & C.D.Bouché, and X. nigrum Mansf. would appear to be the most important in this respect. They are known by a wide variety of local names, but the general adoption of the term cocoyams has been advocated in the interests of simplicity (Morton 1972a).

All parts of the plants contain, to a varying degree, calcium oxalate raphides which can cause dermal, oral, and intestinal irritation, but which are wholly or largely destroyed by cooking. In addition, poisonous water-soluble materials may be present; these are released into the cooking water on boiling (Morton 1972a).

Xanthosoma brasiliense Engl.
[syns Caladium brasiliense Desf. Xanthosoma hastifolium K.Koch]
Belembe, Quelembe, Calalou, Tahitian Spinach

The leaves of this species are irritating unless scalded (von Reis Altschul 1973). The tubers are non-acrid and edible, but tiny (Morton 1972a).

Xanthosoma jacquinii Schott
[syn. Xanthosoma sagittifolium Liebm.]
Yautia Palma, Yautia Hueca, Yautia Silvestre, Malanga Cochon, Giant Tanier

The plant has acrid milky sap and a foetid odour. In Surinam, the small lateral tubers and the leaves are cooked and eaten. In the Andes of southern Colombia, the tubers are ground, boiled, and fermented to make chicha, an intoxicating drink (Morton 1972a).

Xanthosoma nigrum Mansf.
[syns Xanthosoma violaceum Schott, Arum nigrum Vell.]
Black Malanga, Malanga Morada, Malanga Colorada, Malango, Vinola, Quequesque, Otó, Rascadera, Ocumo Morado Culin, Danchi, Badu, Coco, Blue Taro, Blue Ape, Sunin, Cebugabi

The rhizome, tubers, young leaves, and petioles are widely used for food in tropical America, Africa, and Asia (Morton 1972a).

Dahlgren & Standley (1944) caution that the raw roots and leaves of Xanthosoma violaceum contain crystals which will irritate the mouth and throat. Souder (1963) notes the presence of irritant calcium oxalate crystals in this species. According to Burkill (1935), a variety of this species having streaked leaf stalks was particularly irritant to the mouth.

Xanthosoma sagittifolium Schott
Yautia, Tannia

The tuber of this species is edible after cooking, but immediate severe irritation of the mouth and throat occurs if fresh material is eaten (Sakai et al. 1972).

Specialised cells containing calcium oxalate raphides occur in all parts of the plant. A microscopical study of these raphides has revealed that they are barbed and grooved (Sakai et al. 1972).

Morton (1972a) notes that various authors have applied the binomial Xanthosoma sagittifolium loosely to any Xanthosoma species being cultivated for their so-called "roots".

Zantedeschia aethiopica Spreng.
[syn. Richardia africana Kunth]
White Arum, Calla Lily, Lily of the Nile, Trumpet Lily

This plant, a native of southern Africa, is naturalised in parts of Australia and is widely cultivated elsewhere, including Europe and North America.

Johnson (1897) reported that laundresses at Funchal, Madeira who tried to utilise the starch obtainable from the corms of Richardia aethiopica, suffered irritation of the hands which, upon investigation, was found to have been caused by numerous needle-shaped raphides.

Eating the plant causes swelling of the lips, tongue, and pharynx, and gastrointestinal irritation (Everist 1962).

Richard J. Schmidt

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