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New: Understanding, pronouncing and using Botanical terminology, a Glossary

Alocasia Amazonica

This plant is a hybrid and not a species. 
The name is not scientific but is instead a horticultural common name

Sometimes described incorrectly as Alocasia x amazonica

Originally created as a hybrid of

Alocasia watsoniana Hort. x Alocasia sanderiana Hort.
Alocasia watsoniana was originally published as Alocasia longiloba
Alocasia watsoniana Hort. is a synonym
Alocasia Amazonica, Photo Copyright 2007. Steve Lucas,
Alocasia Amazonica
Incorrectly Alocasia x amazonica

A hybrid of

Alocasia longiloba Miq. (formerly known as the synonym A. watsoniana Hort.) x Alocasia sanderiana  Hort.
The abbreviation "Miq." indicates the plant was described by Miquel, Friedrich Anton Wilhelm (1811-1871)

Common Names:  African Mask, Jewel Alocasia, Alocasia Alligator
Sometimes known commercially as "Alocasia Polly" or correctly Alocasia Poly


Sometimes confused with
Alocasia micholitziana Sander

Frydek and Alocasia Maxkowskii are hybrids
that have different parentage involving
Alocasia micholitziana

Alocasia Amazonica has the same parentage as
Alocasia mortefontanensis André

Alocasia Amazonica is a hybrid member of the scientific family Araceae popularly known to growers as aroids.  Although at least one plant seller claims the plant is "Straight from the Rainforest to Your Home" when offering Alocasia Amazonica for sale (correctly pronounced alo-CAY-see-a) this plant has never existed in the rain forests of the Amazon or South America.  It has never been observed naturally in any rain forest in the world. 

Aroid grower John Banta and aroid writer and expert Julius Boos in West Palm Beach, FL were able to trace the hybrid to postman and nursery owner
Salvadore Mauro who during the 1950's owned a now defunct nursery in Miami, FL.  The nursery was known as the "Amazon Nursery" and Mauro named Alocasia Amazonica after his own business.  The name has since been applied for almost 60 years to this popular hybrid bred from Asian parents but others have "borrowed" the name for use on other hybrids or modified the name for commercial purposes. 
The title holder to some of the biggest horticultural myths in the world of aroids, Alocasia Amazonica is not a species, does not grow naturally in any native rain forest, is not from the Amazon and the name should never be used in either the italicized form or with single quotations since it is neither a published species nor a registered cultivar.  
Alocasia Amazonica, Photo Copyright Steve Lucas, www.ExoticRainforest.comThere are several crosses available today and unless you are willing to pay for a DNA test there is no way to know the parentage of your plant.  Depending on the parents of the cross the plants often take on different shapes and sizes which makes growers often wonder what they are growing.  Still the name Alocasia Amazonica came from one man at one small nursery in Miami, FL and should be applied to only Salvador's hybrid.

Do an internet search and you will find the
National Botanic Garden of Belgium AlocasiaxAmazonica and other sources including Wikipedia and some university websites including the University of Connecticut either currently or have in the past indicated Alocasia x amazonica was described in a scientific paper by botanist Éduard François André (1840-1911).  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) formerly credited André
until November 16, 2009 when they elected to update their webpage to indicate the name is horticultural and is not a legitimate scientific name:  Alocasia x Amazonica USDA  The University of Connecticut corrected their page to reflect the correct status of the plant on November 20, 2009.  Sincethe name Alocasia Amazonica as well as the plant as it is grown today didn't come into existence until the 1950's, more than forty years after André's death, his deserving credit for the name would be highly unlikely. 
André was a contemporary of Jean Jules Linden (1817-1898)  and was a co-author of the popularly grown Anthurium crystallinum Linden and André.  
In a note received from aroid botanist Alistair Hay on November 20, 2009 he explains the name Alocasia x amazonica is used incorrectly and the use should not continue.  "there is the problem of consistency: if botanical hybrid names are used for some cultivated Alocasias how many more need to be created for those interspecific hybrids for which they do not yet exist?  So let's not talk about Alocasia x amazonica."

Evidence provided by
Geneviève Ferry who is associated with the Jardins Botaniques de Nancy in France makes it clear André's plant was never described as Alocasia x amazonica as is often reported.  Instead André's hybrid was published in Revue Horticole in 1891.  The plant was crossed by the brothers Chantrier who were gardeners at Mortefontaine and they used Alocasia lowii and Alocasia sanderiana as the parent plants.  André published the plant using the name Alocasia mortefontanensis.  Since Alocasia lowii is now correctly known as a natural variation of Alocasia longiloba (see photo below) the plant would technically have the same parents as the plant created in Miami.  However, even though researchers have attempted to credit the plant to André he never referred to the hybrid as Alocasia x amazonica.  André also named a plant from southeast Asia in honor of the brothers Chantrier which he published in 1901 as Tacca chantrieri André.
The earliest published use of the term Alocasia x Amazonica appeared on page 326 of a Florida State Horticultural Society publication in 1953 in an article entitled Cultivation of the Genus Alocasia in Florida with only a brief mention and little detail other than the hybrid parentage: 
  Florida State Horticultural Society  Since that publication is not a scientific journal the name would then have no standing in science. 

In communication with Rafaël Govaerts, a researcher with the Royal Botanic Garden Kew in London, he has elected to indicate the name Alocasia x amazonica Reark, Proc. Florida State Hort. Soc. 20: 326 (1953) is an invalid name (nom. inval.);  Royal Botanic Garden Kew/Alocasia Amazonica  while the only possible valid name in a scientific paper for the hybrid would be the unplaced (non-accepted) name Alocasia mortefontanensis. Alocasia morefontanensis  As you will soon read in a note from botanist Alistair Hay the use of the term Alocasia x Amazonica is also invalid and should not be used.

Some sources incorrectly indicate Alocasia mortefontanensis may be the same as the smaller hybrid plant sold  as "Alocasia Polly" which according to the original growers of that hybrid is correctly Alocasia Poly.  Although sellers have elected to use the wrong spelling according to Bill Rotolante and his father Denis who are the owners of the nursery where this smaller variation of Alocasia Amazonica was discovered the name "Poly" was chosen since Alocasia Amazonica Poly, Photo Copyright 2009, Marek Argent, first thought their smaller stable hybrid was a polyploid form of Amazonica Amazonica.   A polyploid specimen is one that has an extra set which doubles the basic number of chromosomes.  Polyploidy can cause oddities including a difference in size.  DNA tests on the plant have since proven this assumption to be incorrect.

Part of the problem in understanding Alocasia species is they are extremely variable across any given range.  A species collected in Malaysia may not appear to be the same plant id collected in Sumatra.  Plants have been studied where only a single specimen of its "type" can be located in a large area while others that appear to be only somewhat similar are commonly growing around the region.  If studied scientifically all prove to be the same species.  A single plant that does not look exactly like its parent group does not indicate a new species.  Alocasia species are so variable in the wild there is no way to compare them to cultivated specimens.  Growers and sellers are far too quick to want to grant a new "name" to a plant based on a single cultivated specimen.  To better understand how plant species vary please read this page which explains  Natural Variation.  More on this subject can be found later in this article.  My thanks to Marek Argent for the use of his photo (left):   Aroid ID Center

There are over 100 species of
Alocasia known to science and all are naturally found in the geographical region composed of Southeast Asia and neighboring island nations of the Pacific Ocean.  No Alocasia species has ever been found naturally in Central America, the Caribbean, or South America including the Amazon basin although some species have been imported and now thrive in the area. 
Many people have tried to argue the fact on a multitude of garden websites but there has never been a species published to science named Alocasia Amazonica which is correct.  The name Alocasia Amazonica is simply a made up name created by grower Salvadore Mauro used as a common name for a hybridized cultivated plant created in the 1950's. 

Here are three scientific data bases and you will not find the name Alocasia Amazonica on any as a species.  The Royal Botanic Garden Kew, London:  International Plant Names Index  The Missouri Botanical Garden:
  World Checklist of Selected Plant Families: Kew World Checklist

John Banta is considered a living  "legendary" aroid grower respectfully known as "The Banta".  If there is any other living legendary figure in the International Aroid Society other than John it would be Julius to whom I often turn for clarification on complicated botany related information!  Below is the explanation of the origination of Alocasia Amazonica as related by John Banta.  For those unacquainted with the names in John's information below these include Dr. Monroe Birdsey who was a well known botanist as well as some of the original founders of the IAS (, All are now deceased. 

The Myth and the Truth about Alocasia Amazonica, by John Banta

"I guess that it is just another burden that old men must endure. We see facts known to us as true replaced by logical myths.

Unfortunately, Monroe Birdsey, Bob See and Ralph Davis whom all knew Salvadore Mauro, a great plants man are all dead. I was fortunate enough to have visited Sam’s nursery with Monroe. The visit was a result of my questioning Monroe why in the world an Asiatic genus, Alocasia, was given the name, ‘Amazonica’?  Monroe’s skill in teaching is illustrated by his response. He made a phone call and then insisted that I accompany him to a friend’s nursery. We drove out to near the Miami airport. Sam lived on about a quarter acre lot just off 36th Street. Behind his small house was a large (about 20 x 30 foot cement block enclosure roofed over with snow fencing. ( for those of you who have never lived in snow country; snow fencing is about 4 feet tall and composed of 1 inch wide wooden slats woven together with 14 gauge galvanized wire leaving about a 1 inch gap between the slats.) His growing area was magical, the cement blocks were covered with algae, moss and ferns and the benches crowded with beautifully grown foliage plants such as Homalomena wallisi ‘Mauro’ that he introduced in the 1950's. Sam was killed in an automobile accident while at work as a postman on one of the three wheeled motor bikes used back in those days. Well, back to our story. As we approached a bench of Alocasia I asked Sam how Alocasia Amazonica got it’s name. He answered ,” I guess it could have been named for a nursery!”

Alocasia lowii, a synonym of Alocasia longiloba, Photo Copyright 2007, Steve Lucas, www.ExoticRainforest.comI asked who made the hybrid? Sam and Monroe had a good laugh at my expense. I had not noticed the small sign as we entered; ‘Amazon Nursery’ I asked what the parents were. Sam’s smile quickly darkened. He was upset that it was erroneously reported to be A. sanderiana X a. lowii whereas it was in reality A. sanderiana X watsoniana. Years later I remade the hybrid as Sam suggested I should to verify the parents. All of the seedlings came up as easily identified as Alocasia Amazonica.  I believe without a doubt that the true origin of Alocasia Amazonica was in Sam’s nursery in the 1950's.  I only wish that some of our departed plants men were still around for more reasons than to vouch for Sam’s accomplishments."
John later wrote:  "André did in fact mention in 1891 in Review Horticole an Alocasia hybrid between A, sanderiana and A. lowii.  Those parents were later ascribed to A. Amazonica in error. The Alocasia described by André is correctly named mortefontanensis.  In as much as Sam made Alocasia Amazonica using A, sanderiana x A. watsoniana.  It is not the plant mentioned by André.  If anyone wants to argue the point further let them remake Alocasia Amazonica as I did. Both species are still available."  The "Sam" John refers to is Salvadore Mauro.
John's last note would also make one query why anyone in Europe in 1891 would use the name "amazonica' for a plant bred from parents known to be of Asian origin?  It would at least appear some individual doing research at a later date elected to credit André's described hybrid as having been the plant known today as Alocasia Amazonica.  Alocasia watsoniana  has also been correctly determined by one of the world's top Alocasia botanists Alistair Hay to be simply a natural variation of Alocasia longiloba even though it does not look precisely like A. longiloba or A. lowii.
Since André in Review Horticole wrote about an Alocasia hybrid between Alocasia sanderiana and Alocasia lowii  (which is is now correctly Alocasia longiloba) and those parents are effectively the same as those of Alocasia Amazonica it would appears André's plant referred to as Alocasia mortefontanensis has the same parentage.

It also appears some unidentified researcher elected to declare André's Alocasia mortefontanensis to be Alocasia x amazonica due to the popularity of the hybrid plant with growers when in fact it should still be called Alocasia mortefontanensis, at least in the scientific form..  
Alocasia Amazonica underside, Photo copyright Steve Lucas, www.ExoticRainforest.comIt is not logical for a well known European hybrid which apparently has been grown since the late 1800's to be called Alocasia x amazonica when the reason for the use of the name "Amazonica" is obvious due to the name of Salvadore Mauro's nursery.  To completely resolve this "mystery" a serious hybrid researcher must grow both plants again from the originally described parents to learn what is produced which may prove difficult since the originally used natural variants are not known for certain.

Since the hybrid was never published or registered by Salvadore Mauro the field is somewhat open to anyone wishing to give the plant a "new" name in an attempt to convince growers they should buy another specimen.  As a result you'll find many discussions on plant forums where people wrangle over which "species" any particular specimen might have actually been.  Commercial growers anxious to sell even more plants often come up with "new names" including "Alocasia Alligator" and often advertise the plant as a "new species" which is simply incorrect.  Regardless of any of the "new" names the plant is not a "new" species but only a hybrid.

Be very wary of the "made-up" and often bad information found on the internet regarding the growth of this plant.  Although you can find information on more than a dozen websites declaring  Alocasia Amazonica a "species" it simply does not exist in science and is instead a hybrid created by human hands.  Even though you can sometimes find the name listed as Alocasia 'Amazonica', to use single quotes indicates the plant is a registered cultivar. 

It is now popular method for home and nursery growers to do when then believe they've discovered something "new" to simply make up a name and put it in single quotes in order to make such a claim the plant must be properly registered with the International Aroid Society.  The IAS has been designated as the official registrar for all aroid hybrids and cultivars.  Since the International Aroid Society controls the cultivar registry all one needs to do to learn about a registered cultivar is visit the IAS website  
Just type in the name and you'll find no such registration exists.
Although it has been established the parents used by Salvadore Mauro are in fact Alocasia sanderiana X watsoniana
other sources claim this hybrid was created by crossing Alocasia watsoniana x Alocasia nobilis.  Alocasia nobilis itself has endured some scrutiny from botanists since the name was published twice, one of which has been proven to be only a horticultural name and not a species. 
It is probable different hybrids have been created by hybridized using different sets of parents since some have a velvet appearance with a vein structure or silvery background color that involves Alocasia micholitziana as a parent.  Little record can be found of Alocasia Amazonica being capable of sexual reproduction since hybrids are commonly sterile and cannot sexually reproduce.  Regardless, since Mauro coined the name the parents he used would be the only ones to qualify for the name he coined.

Tissue culture is simply cloning.  As a result, this is a very confusing group of both species and hybrid plants.  I even found the specimen being sold as Alocasia Maxkowskii.  I have no idea where that name originated but it is likely the invention of another tissue culture company who felt they had to have some name they could claim for promotional purposes.   Besides, it sounds like a botanical name, even though it is not.
Many growers run to a nursery to buy a "new species" whenever they see a form of "Alocasia Amazonica" with a longer or broader leaf blade.  Although the "new" plant may be more attractive the shape has nothing to do with "species".   Hybrid plants are well known to produce many variations of shape, size and color.   Aroids (members of the larger plant family Araceae) are simply variable and naturally grow with many new shapes and colorations.  These variations can often be observed on the same plant and you should be aware all the photos of the leaf blades of Alocasia Amazonica were growing on the same specimen despite the fact their shapes and colors appear different! 
Alocasia Amazonica is often confused with Alocasia micholitziana (mik-oh-LIT-zee-ay-nuh) which is a true species sometimes sold commercially with the trade name Alocasia Frydek.  "Frydek" appears to be a name given to the plant by a plant tissue culture company who wanted a unique trade name since the plant is commonly cloned and sold in numerous nurseries and discount stores.  elp:
Alocasia Amazonica spathe and spadix, inflorescence, Photo Alfonso se la ParraWild Alocasia species reproduce via the production of an inflorescence.  When an Alocasia is "in flower" the reference is to the tiny male and female flowers that grow on the spadix at the center of the inflorescence when the plant is ready to reproduce.  The inflorescence is supported by a stalk known as the peduncle.  The spathe is not a "flower" but instead is simply a modified leaf in the shape of a hood.  Flowers contain the sexual parts of a plant and the spathe has no sexual parts since all those are located on the spadix.  The spadix is a spike on a thickened fleshy axis which can produce tiny flowers.  Once the female flowers on the spadix have been fertilized by an insect they produce berries.  The berries are then eaten by birds and rain forest animals that spread the seeds through their droppings. 

Hybridized plants are commonly sterile so these hybrids may never reproduce through natural pollination.  Since they are very popular and easily sold the growers hire genetic labs to create them in test tubes through a process known as tissue culture which is cloning.  Even though pollination is unlikely the plant often reproduces by division when a new plant simply grows from the base of a mature specimen.  If you are interested in learning how aroid species reproduce in nature please read this link on natural pollination.

Even though some websites claim Alocasia Amazonica is difficult to grow, in fact it is easy.  The trick is you must provide the plant the conditions it requires.  This hybridized specimen will not do well as a "house plant" on the interior of a home unless it is receiving at least moderately bright light.  Many websites claim this hybrid will do well in low light levels as high as 80% shade but even though the plant may survive for a period of time it will eventually die in such inadequate light.  A specimen should constantly be kept very near a bright window that is not exposed to a cold draft.

You cannot fail to water Alocasia Amazonica on a regular basis.  This is a hybrid of rain forest specimens and requires damp (not muddy) conditions to prosper.  Like many Alocasia sp., if planted out doors Alocasia Amazonica will often go dormant when the temperatures drop below 12.75C (55 degrees F) and you may not see it for some months until spring and warmer weather returns.  In most cases the specimen will grow again once the temperatures rise and stabilize again.  The specimen will not tolerate a freeze! 

Due to the genetics of the parent species in many cases these hybrids go dormant even when grown in a home and may stay underground for multiple years.  The plant is still alive as long as the tuber is solid and as long as it is in tact the plant will eventually come back to life.  The dormancy period is not well understood and some specimens may skip dormancy completely but in most cases is normal.  If dormancy begins there is nothing you can do other than allow the plant to complete the natural cycle since the cause is largely genetically based.

The stalks that support each leaf are correctly known as petioles, not stems.  This link explains the difference in the stem and the petiole:  What is a stem?

Recent reports from knowledgeable field botanists indicate the true parent species are often found growing in very bright light, almost direct sunlight.  If grown in too low light the Alocasia often looses much of its green color on the adaxial (upper) surface of the leaf and becomes almost black.  In low room light, especially without water, the specimen is likely to simply droop, loose the color, and die a slow death.  Alocasia Amazonica will grow well in medium filtered light but may not stay as happy as it will in brighter lighting.
As a house plant, keep it near a bright window.  If you wish to grow Alocasia Amazonica in direct, or near direct sunlight, this plant can require a great deal of water.  Full sun may not be advisable in some areas where the summer sun is extremely hot and brilliant.  The specimen can stand as tall as 4 feet but typically is only 2 to 3 feet in height.  The leaves can be impressive.  Growers where the parent plants are native indicate they will reach a more impressive height in bright light.
Alocasia Amazonica, Photo Copyright 2008, Steve Lucas, www.ExoticRainforest.comThe best growing media for this plant is a well aerated soil that can drain quickly.  You can duplicate this mix with soil  growers often call "jungle mix" .  Make it yourself with a good "moisture control" potting soil mixed with bark such as orchid potting media containing charcoal, coarse Perlite™, peat moss and finely shredded sphagnum moss.  A layer of loose mulch above the soil will give the roots a natural place to spread as the parent plants would have done in nature. 
A mixture of approximately 30% soil, 20% peat, 40% orchid bark with charcoal , 10% Perlite and some finely cut and shredded sphagnum moss works well.  My mixes are not meant to be a precise "formula" since all you need do is to try to match decomposing forest soil.  Feel free to mix some mulch along with some good compost to the mix.  Keep the soil evenly damp but not soggy at all times.  It is important to understand the parents of this plants often grow near water and enjoy having their roots damp.  Regardless of the advice on garden websites do not allow your plant to dry out completely!
The information on this page was researched through scientific sources and includes information from some of the best aroid botanists and growers in the world.  My thanks to Julius Boos, Australian botanist Alistair Hay, Australian grower Mic Pascal, Bill and Denis Rotolante of Silver Krome Gardens in Miami, Julius Boos, John Banta, Geneviève Ferry in France, Danny Hervelle in Belgium and aroid botanist Pete Boyce in Malaysia for their input.   Alistair and Pete are the top Alocasia experts in the world having worked in the field with these species for many years.  Each is responsible for locating and describing many new Alocasia species to science.
Want to learn more about Alocasia species?  Please read A review of Alocasia (Araceae: Colocasieae) for Thailand including a novel species and new species records from South-West Thailand by Peter C. Boyce.

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