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Plants in the Exotic Rainforest Collection
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In depth information, how to grow Philodendron species, Click this Link
Within our collection we have many species of
Philodendron.  If you are seeking other photos, click this link

Philodendron bipinnatifidum Schott ex Endl
Does climb trees!

Note:  Looking for Philodendron xanadu?  click this link

Several search engines are directing searches to this page if searching for information on Philodendron xanadu.  Although both species are members of Philodendron subgenus Meconostigma, P. xanadu is a unique species and no longer considered a hybrid. 

Philodendron bipinnatifidum Schott ex Endl, Philodendron selloum

Philodendron bipinnatifidum Schott ex Endl
Often sold as Philodendron selloum which is now a synonym

Common names:
Split Leaf Philodendron, Tree Philodendron, Lacy Tree Philodendron,
Selloum, Elephant Ear Philodendron, Cut Leaf Philodendron,
Philodendron selloum, Self heading Philodendron

Common names used in Brazil:
Banana-de-imbę, Banana-de-macaco, Banana-de-morcego, Banana-do-brejo
Banana-do-mato, Cipó-imbé, Imbę, Guaimbę

If you are seeking
Philodendron xanadu, click here


A tropical "tree-like" Philodendron species, Philodendron bipinnatifidum will survive in less than ideal growing conditions provided it is not subjected to periods of extended freeze.  In north central Florida and all of South Florida Philodendron bipinnatifidum (Philodendron selloum) growing 100 feet, 30 meters, in the canopy.Philodendron bipinnatifidum can be found as a landscape plant in virtually every community but almost everyone knows it by the name Philodendron selloum rather than its accepted scientific name
At one time this highly variable Philodendron species was also known to science as Philodendron selloum but that name was later determined to be synonymous with Philodendron bipinnatifidum.   As a result it is no longer accepted.  Philodendron selloum is now considered a synonym which is a name later applied to an already published species.  When a plant has been previously published scientifically the first name becomes the accepted name.  Since Philodendron bipinnatifidum was published in 1832 and precedes Philodendron selloum (1852) the correct name for this species is Philodendron bipinnatifidum (the basionym) since the two are one and the same.  A basionym is the original name applied to the taxon as in "basio-" from the Latin word "basis" which originally came from the Greek term "bainein"  meaning "step" combined with "nym" from the Latin word "nomen" which means "name".  A basionym is the first step in the naming process. 
Philodendron bipinnatifidum inflorescence, Photo Copyright 2008, Jim EdwardsFound in Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay, although quite a few websites claim Philodendron bipinnatifidum does not climb according to one of the world's best known aroid botanists their information is inaccurate.  In his scientific paper A Revision of Philodendron Subgenus Meconostigma (Araceae) Dr. Simon Mayo describes the species as being hemiepiphitic.  A hemiepiphyte (hemi-EPI-fit) is a plant that begins life in the ground and the climbs a supporting tree.  Again, in the scientific text The Genera of Araceae by by Mayo, Bogner and P.C. Boyce when discussing the roots of climbing aroids the text states, "Roots in Araceae are always and dimorphic roots are often found in climbing hcmiepiphytes, e.g. Monstera deliciosa, Philodendron bipinnatifidum."   Adventitious roots  form from shoot tissues, not from another root while dimorphic indicates the roots grow in two distinct forms.  Dr. Mayo explains further later in this article.  (see photo right (above) taken in Brazil),
All Philodendron species are aroids and Philodendron bipinnatifidum is found within the larger plant family known as Araceae which includes all aroid species.   An aroid is a plant that reproduces through the production of an inflorescence and  the major parts of that inflorescence are known as a spathe and spadix. 
Many growers believe the spathe is a "flower" but that belief is inaccurate since the spathe is nothing more than a Philodendron bipinnatifidum inflorescence, Photo Courtesy the Missouri Botanical Garden, copyright P. Malesevichmodified leaf whose purpose is to protect the spadix at its center.  If you explore the inflorescence with a strong magnifying glass when it first reaches female anthesis (sexual reproduction) and is beginning to open you will find very tiny flowers (male, sterile male, and female) on the spadix at the spathe's center.   These will not open all at once and open progressively beginning with the female flowers along with the sterile male flowers followed a day or two later by the male flowers. 
The female flowers are securely hidden inside the floral chamber at the lower extreme of the spadix and are the first to open.  If the female flowers are pollinated with the pollen brought by an appropriate insect from the genus Cyclocephala (the Scarab beetles) from another specimen of Philodendron bipinnatifidum that currently has the male flowers at male anthesis and is producing pollen the spadix will likely produce berries containing seeds.  In Philodendron species pollination is almost always done by one of the Cyclocephala beetle species of which there are approximately 900 species,   For additional information on how any aroid reproduces read Natural Pollination in Aroids
Both the names Philodendron bipinnatifidum and Philodendron selloum were accepted scientifically until 1990 when Philodendron expert aroid botanist Simon Mayo of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in England documented both "species" were actually a single species with multiple growth forms.  The two had been differentiated previously since they were only slightly different.  Differences in growth form (leaf shape) often causes confusion, especially among non-scientists.  Think of the dilemma this way: there are many "growth forms" of human beings but only one species.  Just because an individual has a larger body, smaller head, very thin legs, or is of a different race or skin color does not mean that person is a different "species"!  Some plant growers have a difficult time accepting such a concept when it comes to plants. 
For reasons not always understood plant lovers expect any plant with a slightly different leaf shape must also be a different species and that is simply incorrect.  Some species have been given close to 20 different scientific names simply as a result of leaf variations, but all are the same species.  As botanists sort through all the extra names many  described "species" eventually become only a synonym (same species, other name) for a plant which can be proven to Robert Chumley's Miniature Sellioum, Philodendron bipinnatifidumbe the basionym  or base species.  The final determination is concluded  due to the structure of the spathe and spadix rather than a leaf shape determining the species.  The final scientific determination is made by a careful dissection and comparison of the sexual characteristics found within the inflorescence considered along with the structure of the stem, petiole, cataphylls, veins and other principal characteristics.  When all the characteristics are compared the taxonomist goes back to the very first occurrence of the species being published to science.  Quite simply, the first name wins and all others which attempt to describe the same species become synonyms.  The scientific name Philodendron bipinnatifidum was published in 1832 and the name Philodendron selloum was not published until 1852.  Regrettably, there is a great deal of both incorrect and non-scientific information on the internet regarding the species Philodendron bipinnatifidum.   A botanist simply does not "change" a name instead they follow the rules of botany and track the species back to the original published name. 

Robert Chumley's Miniature Sellioum, Philodendron bipinnatifidum, Photo Copyight 2009, Steve Lucas, www.ExoticRainforest.comWithin aroid species every leaf does not need to look alike.  To a scientist those differences are known as natural variation.  Just because the leaves in the photo above do not exactly match the photos on other websites does not mean they are not this species. 
There is a specimen in the collection of Robert Chumley in central Florida that is known as a "Miniature Selloum" that produces leaves that at least appear to be smaller as a result of having their leaf margins re-curved.  As of this writing all comparisons indicate it is simply a natural variation of Philodendron bipinnatifidum despite the fact the plant can tolerate substantially colder temperatures since it was collected in southern Uruguay.  If you read this link, you will have a better understanding of  variation in non-technical language.  Natural variation in aroids and other plant species
Many growers have been told P. bipinnatifidum as well as other tree Philodendron from the subgenus Meconostigma species do not climb trees but that is not scientifically accurate.  Meconostigma species are arborescent (tree like) but they cannot perpetually stand on their own.  In one internet search I found more than one dozen sites claiming Philodendron bipinnatifidum will not climb including HerselfsHoustonGarden and many others such as the State of Florida's Floridata 

At least one Texas garden site included this quote on their site which I suspect they chose to use as a result of one of these articles, "
This is one of the few philodendrons that are not climbers. Instead it grows as a woody shrub. It has huge Philodendron bipinnatifidum in Brazilian canopy, Photo Copyright Global Nomad 1leaves and one stem that does not branch. The branch falls over when the top gets too heavy. 
Despite the belief Meconostigma don't climb, they do in fact climb to 30 meters or higher (100 plus feet) as can be seen in the photos included on this page.   Their conclusion the plant will fall over when it grows too tall is however entirely correct if the plant does not have a tree to provide support. 

I brought these errors to the attention of aroid botanist Dr. Simon Mayo of the Royal Botanic Garden Kew in London who is the leading authority on the Philodendron subgenus Meconostigma.  Simon is the author of
A Revision of Philodendron Subgenus Meconostigma (Araceae) and his paper is considered the most authoritative in the field.  Simon responded, "Yes Philodendron bipinnatifidum certainly does climb but from what I've seen the way it does it is different from Subgenus Philodendron and subgenus Pteromischum species which emit relatively fine anchor roots at or near the nodes.  In P. bipinnatifidum and other members of Subgenus Meconostigma the anchor roots are pretty thick and can wrap themselves around small tree stems like ropes.  It is almost as if the plant hauls itself into the canopy. I've seen plants suspended between neighboring small trees by these roots. They do have a very adaptable kind of growth habit, which I suppose goes along with their natural ecology, preferring rather higher light intensity situations than "normal" Philodendrons."  As a result, any information on garden websites claiming Philodendron subgenus Meconostigma species do not climb does not match the observations of more than a few qualified botanists.
Philodendron bipinnatifidum is a Meconostigma.  The majority of the species within the Philodendron subgenus originate in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia.  Meconostigma species are members of a group known as being arborescent (tree-like) due to their apparent "trunk".  As a result collectors often call Meconostigma species "tree Philodendron".  The "tree trunk" portion of the species is the stem of the species.  Although many growers call the Philodendron bipinnatifidum Schott ex Endl, Meconstigma base common to the species, Photo Copyright 2008 Steve Lucas, www.ExoticRainforest.comsupport for a single leaf the "stem" the structure that supports any leaf is correctly known as the petiole. This link explains the difference in a stem and a petiole.

Members of subgenus Meconostigma are perfectly capable of supporting themselves to massive heights, sometimes 7 meters (almost 20 feet) or more.  In time, they actually produce a "tree-like" base as can be seen in my photo to the right but they are also capable of climbing trees or growing as hemiepiphytic species attached to a tree limb with their roots extending up to 30 meters (close to 100 feet) to the soil below.  The photos to the left and right (below) taken by a Flickr photographer that prefers to be known as Global Nomad 1 (used with permission) included the following information,
"Philodendron sp. with long roots reaching for the soil 30 m below.  The Atlantic Forest of tropical South America is one of the most biologically diverse forests but less than 10 percent of the original forest remains due to extensive clearing for agriculture and urbanization. If protected and encouraged to regenerate, the forest could come back in several areas as shown in this photo of a 70 year old secondary forest that regenerated on a previously cleared and degraded patch of land in Sao Paulo city."  

I have personally observed countless specimens in South Florida climbing tall trees reaching great heights.  Growers in the Homestead area of South Florida often have enormous specimens climbing in their yards.  As any tree may eventually fall from its own weight a Meconostigma may also fall.  But more often they simply grow at an angle with their roots still keeping them firmly upright.  Even the State of Florida website FLORIDATA says,
"Philodendron bipinnatifidum, which begins life as vines and then transform into epiphytes".  An epiphyte (ep-a-FIT) is simply a plant that grows attached to another plant while a hemiepiphyte (hem-a-EPA-fit) is a plant that may begin life in soil and climb a host tree or begin life as a seed placed on the branch of a tree and extend its roots down to the soil.

Since more than individuals appear to believe Meconostigma species don't climb I also asked aroid experts Julius Boos and Joep Moonen to comment.  Joep lives and works in the rain forest of French Guiana.

Julius commented, "Concerning some of the so-called ground-growing species such as P. bipinnatifidum and P. stenolobum, these will grow their stems/rhizomes vertically for a while, but as they age and fall over they grow horizontally along the ground  If they encounter a palm or tree trunk they will eagerly grasp on to the support and climb upwards.  The height (and health/survival) of the supporting palm or tree would be the only limitations as to how high they eventually would grow! I have seen P. bipinnatifidum clasping a tall Queen Palm in Wellington, the Philodendron had its huge ''head'' (8' X 8'?) about 20 feet up the palm!"

Philodendron solimoesense climbing tree, Photo Copyright 2008, Joep MoonenJoep shared this information explaining how Meconostigma grow in the forest, "There may still be some confusion how Meconostigma grow in nature. Terrestrial species do indeed grow in the ground.  The species I'm most familiar with, P. solimoesense and P. goeldii, grow high in the canopy and are true epiphytes. The fruit or seed is deposited high on a branch and from there the plant develop. Very old plants fall from their erect position and curl around the tree branch while the roots, (with a typically strong odor), go straight down to the humus layer 40 meters (120 feet) down.  If the host tree falls the Philodendron carry on at the bottom since there is an open spot with enough light and in that how they grow along roads in the jungle.  But they started in the canopy so it is logical the only P. Marijke I saw in the wild was growing on a tree."

Philodendron species, and especially hybrid forms, are known to be highly variable and not every leaf of every specimen will always appear the same.  This common Philodendron sp. (known universally as Philodendron selloum) is used as a landscape plant through the southern half of Florida.  You can often it at discount stores.  Even though Philodendron bipinnatifidum is a native of the rain forests of Southern Brazil to Paraguay, is also a great patio plant.  A rain forest inhabitant, P. bipinnatifidum won't tolerate anything more than a very short freeze, and even then the leaves will suffer.   However, it can be quite variable.  Your specimen may not look exactly like the specimen above.  Since the species is considered a "self header" it can support itself and does not require a tree to climb for support. 
Botanical texts often describe the species as a sun lover.  Scientists believe the reason the species climbs in the rain forest is an attempt to get closer to the sun!  I have seen and grown many plants in direct sunlight in a very healthy condition.  The majority of South Florida growers grow them in sun flooded fields or landscaped yards.  Admittedly, for best growth it may do better in bright filtered light but the species does not enjoy deep shade. 
Philodendron bipinnatifidum is drought resistant but does best when kept evenly moist in well drained soil.  P. bipinnatifidum grows well in fertile, moist, well drained, soil, however it will grow in just about any soil!  The native soil around Miami is poor and is composed largely of beach sand with very little soil added.  We once had over 50 of these large plants in two beds in front of our home near the ocean.  They reached a height of well over 2 meters) 7 feet and were useful to totally hide our car when it was parked in the circular drive. 
An interesting additional species of the Philodendron subgenus Meconostigma is Philodendron xanadu.  Many websites claim P. xanadu is a hybrid cultivar or subspecies of P. bipinnatifidum but that information is scientifically incorrect.  Two of the three botanical scientists who described it to science are personal friends.  Philodendron xanadu  does not grow as a native species in Australia!  You can read about Philodendron xanadu here:
Specimens may be available from Natural Selections Exotics 

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