Aroids and other genera in the Collection      Take the Tour Now?     Orchids

The Exotic Rainforest
Plants in the Exotic Rainforest Collection

Epipremnum pinnatum  (L.) Engl.
Epipremnum pinnatum, Photo Copyright David Paul

Epipremnum pinnatum (L.) Engl.

Epipremnum angustilobum, Epipremnum elegans, Epipremnum merrillii,
Epipremnum mirabile, Monstera dilacerata
, Monstera pinnata, Pothos aurea,
Pothos pinnatus, Rhaphidophora aurea, Rhaphidophora cunninghamii, Rhaphidophora laciniata,
Rhaphidophora lovellae, Rhaphidophora pinnata, Scindapsus pinnatus
and others

Our juvenile specimen shown below is a natural variation known as Cebu Blue
Not Epipremnum aureum (Golden Pothos) Click this link for a description

Epipremnum pinnatum (L.) Engl., Photo Copyright 2007, Russ HammerMany people confuse Epipremnum pinnatum with several Monstera species along with another commonly collected species: Epipremnum aureum.  The latter is commonly known as "Golden Pothos", "Devil's Ivy", and other names.  The fourth photo on this page is the juvenile form of Epipremnum pinnatum while the mid adult and adult specimens look very different.  I
n addition, several Monstera species such as Monstera dilacerata were originally placed in the genus Epipremnum in error.

Epipremnum pinnatum  has been the source of a great deal of confusion among both botanists and plant hobbyists.  As a result of the  misunderstandings regarding the correct identity of Epipremnum pinnatum, the confusion has resulted in 24 known synonym names (same plant, other scientific name).  But the adult forms of the two species do not look alike.  Plants can be variable and often change their shapes as they grow through both morphogenesis and natural variation. 

The photo at the top of this page by botanist David Paul shows the species in the adult form while the photo (right) by Russ Hammer shows the species just beginning to mature.  As an adult, the leaves become both large and pinnate (divided).  Epipremnum pinnatum has become an invasive species in the Wa'a Wa'a forest in the lower Puna District of Hawaii's big island.  The Puna region is a unique area some describe as a rural community due to its agricultural activities but the region has been forever changed to to the invasive nature of species from Southeast Asia and South America having been introduced.  David heads up the Big Island Native Plant society which involved with Hawaii's island conservation. The society works to preserve endemic and endangered plants and are also activist against development which threatens Hawaii's rare island life.

The leaves of Epipremnum pinnatum can be found "more-or less one at each node" according to botanist Peter Boyce who works in Malaysia.   Although while juvenile, the aroid has a sagittate leaf blade (arrow shaped), as Epipremnum pinnatum Epipremnum pinnatum, Photo Copyright Russ Hammerbegins to mature the leaves pinnate, looking something like the frond of a palm and nothing like the juvenile form.   As Epipremnum pinnatum matures the leaves often contain pin-holes along the mid-rib.  Collector Russ Hammer, commented, "I always find pin-holes on mine, and in fact I've thought that it is a typical identifying characteristic for the species.  I see them often on immature leaves as well."   Again, according to Pete Boyce, the apex of the shoot is often covered with a "matted fibrous material and the stems can be seen with irregular longitudinal crests".

According to the published papers of botanist Engler who originally described the species 1908, the type specimen of Epipremnum pinnatum was found in the Philippines.  Information on the International Aroid Society website indicates the distribution of the species is known to be in Bangladesh, India (Andaman Islands), Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, possibly Laos, China (Hainan), Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan (Ryukyu Islands, Ogasawara Gunto [Bonin Islands]), Malaysia (Peninsular, Sabah, Sarawak), Singapore, Indonesia (Java, Maluku, Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi, Sumatra), Philippines, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, New Guinea, Australia (Queensland), Marshall Islands, Belau Islands, Fiji, Tonga, Cook Islands, Western Samoa and now Hawaii.  

Although not native, Epipremnum pinnatum is also found on numerous Caribbean islands, and in both Central and South America.  Epipremnum species are roughly the Asian equivalent of the Neotropical genus Monstera found in Central America, South America, Mexico and the Caribbean, but are not in the same genus.  Plants in the genera Epipremnum and Monstera along with several other Asian genera known as Rhaphidophora, Scindapsus and Pothos may appear to be similar but they are technically different, sometimes due to seed characteristics as well as where they are found in nature.

The natural habitat of Epipremnum pinnatum is primarily found in dense lowland to upper hillside rain forests. The species has even been observed growing on rocks and on granite.  Typically. it is found from sea level to 1,600 meters in elevation (near 5,000 feet).  Epipremnum pinnatum is an epiphytic climber with large roots.  An epiphyte (ep-a-FIT) is a plant that grows upon another plant.  Epipremnum pinnatum has been observed to climb as high as 15 meters (almost 50 feet) on the side of the host tree.   Russ indicatedl, "I have one going up a large oak tree, it must be 25 or 30 feet high now." The pre-adult plant (juvenile) usually forms as a terrestrial grower. Fully adult specimens can be found with stems (canes) of 5mm to 40mm (less than 1/4 inch to 2 inches) in diameter.  It is known to be a variable species and does not always maintain a singular leaf appearance. 

The link attached explains natural variation and morphogenesis (ontogeny) which are known scientific subjects.   Once you complete reading this page, please consider reading the non-technical explanation of the natural changes within plant species.  Some estimates indicate as many as one out of every eight plants known to science naturally vary within their species.  Simply click this link.Click here.

Aroid expert Julius Boos explained,
"If the plant finds itself growing up a support or tree that is not tall enough, and which does not provide the necessary conditions for it to fully mature and to reproduce, it may then begin to send out long shoots with juvenile sized and shaped leaves that, unlike what may be expected, actually appear to seek out large dark areas.  Thos areas may be a larger or taller tree or rock cliff.  These shoots will then root and begin climbing the larger structure, producing larger, normal leaves. This behavior may be a form of scototrophism, the name of a condition where a plant actually seeks dark Epipremnum pinnatum, Photo Copyright 2010 David Paulrather than light."

The normal form of Epipremnum pinnatum is dark green, however our juvenile specimen is a natural variation known as "Cebu Blue".  Cebu is a province of the Philippines.  The young leaves are rounded to slightly cordate (heart shaped), but as the species matures it becomes pinnatifid (palm shaped).  Fenestrations (holes in the leaves) often appear making some collectors confuse Epipremnum pinnatum with the genus Monstera (see note above). The surface of the leaf is often a lustrous dark green but may rarely be seen with the slight to intensely blue-green leaf blade.  Of unusual interest, the leaves of Epipremnum pinnatum are used to the blacken the teeth in some island cultures.

An aroid, E. pinnatum produces a spathe and spadix. The spathe is not a "flower" but instead a modified leaf.  A mature spathe is considered "canoe shaped" and grows to 15 mm (6 inches). The  spathe's exterior is green to dull greenish yellow while the interior is a dull yellow or pale green. The fruit berries, which can form along the spadix once pollinated, are a medium green.  The plant's berries contain seeds once mature. 

For more information on the pollination of aroid species, click this link.

See Epipremnum aureum here

Want to know more about aroids?
Join the International Aroid Society:


Aroid Pollination!
As it occurs in nature and by any horticulturist