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Philodendron hastatum K. Koch & Sellow
This species is not Philodendron domesticum
and the name P. hastatum has never been changed

Philodendron hastatum K. Koch & Sellow, not Philodendron domesticum, Photo Copyright 2008, Steve Lucas,

Philodendron hastatum K. Koch & Sellow
Sometimes published as
Philodendron hastatum

Synonyms: Philodendron elongatum, Philodendron hastifolium, Philodendron disparile
Often sold with the fictitious name "Philodendron glaucophyllum"
Common name: Silver Sword Philodendron

The name Philodendron hastatum was never scientifically changed to Philodendron domesticum!
That internet myth is nothing more than a misconception.


Since the mid 2000's there has been information posted on the internet claiming the name Philodendron hastatum has been changed to Philodendron domesticum.  That information is inaccurate but can be blamed on the title of the article in which Philodendron domesticum was introduced to the scientific world:
Philodendron hastatum fully adult leaf, illustration from the paper Nomenclature and Taxonomy of Philodendron hastatum, Sakuragui and MayoPhilodendron domesticum, A New Name for P. hastatum Hort.
This article attempts to explain how that error became accepted.  The author of the original paper on Philodendron domesticum, Dr. George Bunting clearly states he was not changing the name of the scientifically accepted species and  was only granting a horicultural name (Hort.) to a plant that previously had the common name "Philo hastatum".  Regrettably, that common name was identical to the scientific name of the totally different species Philodendron hastatum K. Koch & Sellow.  These two plants are not one and the same as in commonly believed.
If you follow the details presented here you will understand why information available on several popular garden websites is inaccurate.  The name of the species plant Philodendron hastatum has never been changed.
Additionally, there are those that operate major plant websites as well as at least one encyclopedia that apparently feel the information on this page is totally bogus despite the scientific sources quoted.  As a result, they refuse to correct the confusing errors they distribute. 
Please refer to the scientific paper Nomenclature and Taxonomy  of Philodendron Hastatum K. Koch & Sello by Cássia M. Sakuragui1 & Dr. Simon J. Mayo published in 2005, you will find no mention of the name of this plant having ever been changed.  That paper can be downloaded in PDF form from the internet.  The drawing to the right shows fully adult leaf blades.
George Bunting's entire writen paper on Philodendron domesticum can be read at the bottom of this page.
With its blue-green leaf blades, Philodendron hastatum K. Koch & Sellow was first published to science in 1854 or 1855 (some scientific sources differ) on the date) by botanists Karl Heinrich Emil Koch (1809-1879) and Friedrich Sellow (1789-1831).  Sellow's name is often abbreviated to Sello in scientific papers.   Philodendron hastatum was again published in 1856 by botanist Heinrich Wilhelm Schott (1794-1865) and a third time in 1905 by botanist Heinrich Gustav Adolf Engler (1844-1930).  Two of the three published  scientific descriptions were re-describing the same species while attempting to describe synonyms.  Philodendron hastatum Engler was published in 1905 and is now considered a of homotypic synonym of Philodendron subhastatum K. Krause.  The dates of publication are very important since the first Philodendron hastatum K. Koch & Sellow ,od adult leaf blades, Photo Copyright 2007, Steve Lucas, www.ExoticRainforest.comname published that is correct to genus and species becomes the accepted name in science.
Homotypic or nomenclatural synonyms are synonyms that come about when a name is somehow incorrect or when a species is moved from one genus to another.  Philodendron subhastatum K. Krause is an accepted species name published in 1913 in the text H.G.A. Engler, Pflanzenr., IV, 23Dc: 97. for a plant found in southeast Colombia and northwest Ecuador and is a different species than the Brazilian species Philodendron hastatum K Krause & Sellow under discussion here.  The leaf blades to the left are mid-adult leaves.
As you will read in this article, modern botanists use Philodendron hastatum K. Koch & Sellow as the accepted basionym (base name) since it was published in 1855 but some stil do use the name Philodendron hastatum Engler interchangeably but according to information from the Royal Botanic Garden Kew in London they are not the same species.  Simply type in the name Philodendron subhastatum here:  World Checklist of Selected Plant Families/  Having discussed this with those that have been working in botany for many years it is simply done out of habit.
A basionym is the first valid name applied to a taxon which may or may not have been accepted by later workers as a result of their research.
Philodendron hastatum is an aroid (member of the family Araceae) found endemically (exclusively) in southeastern Brazil in the Brazilian states of Minas Gerais as well as the state of Rio de JaneiroThis portion of Brazil has been devastated by the clear cutting of rain forest for farming, logging and human habitation.   Many rare plant and animal species along with the insects that naturally pollinate those plant species have forever been lost.  As a result, Philodendron hastatum is now listed on the Red List of endangered species despite the fact it is fairly common in plant collections.

Since a major part of this discussion is the explanation of why the name Philodendron hastatum has never been changed, the first date of the publication of Philodendron hastatum is important (1855).  More than a few websites attempt to claim the scientific name Philodendron hastatum has been changed to Philodendron domesticum Hort. a plant described by Dr. George Bunting only as a horticultural species since he indicated the name Philodendron domesticum is only a horticultural name (Hort.).  Some sources try to indicate USDA/GRIN accepts the name Philodenron domesticum as a synonym of Philodendron hastatum K Koch and Sellow but that is not correct.  Just read the details:

In fact, the name originally used (the one Bunting elected to change) was an improperly used common name for a plant the majority of aroid botanists as well as Bunting understand to be a man-made hybrid.  No one is certain why, but during the 1960's someone decided to give that hybrid a common name and the name they chose was  "Philodendron hastatum".   Only the name of the hybrid was changed to a horticultural name.  The name of the true species Philodendron hastatum K Koch & Sellow was never changed.   Documentation of this fact in Dr. Bunting's own words can be found later in this article. 

The scientific name Philodendron hastatum has never been changed and the two plants are not one and the same.  The importance of the first date of publication will later be explained. 

The species Philodendron hastatum is scientifically described as a terrestrial aroid found growing on the ground but may more recent literature indicates it grows in humid forests as a hemiepiphyte.  Some sources indicate it also becomes an appressed epiphyte as a juvenile plant reaches adulthood.   An epiphyte grows attached to another plant (normally a tree) and is often found climbing several meters into the branches in search of brighter light.  

A primary hemiepiphytes begins life as a seed in the droppings of a rain forest inhabitant which germinate on the trunk or limbs of a tree as do an epiphyte but then develop long roots which eventually reach the ground. In this way they attain height in the forest as quickly as possible in order to reach brighter light.

Secondary hemiepiphytes start their lives in the soil or on a tree trunk near the ground with roots to the ground to gather Philodendron hastatum juvenile form Photo Copyright David Scherberich, (NOT Philodendron domesticum)additional nutrients then climb the host where they morph into the adult form and sometimes completely lose their connection to the ground.  An appressed epiphyte is a species that grows closely pressed to the host tree.  The specimens shown in our photos of the blue-green Philodendron hastatum illustrate only the sub-adult form. 

Although commonly grown by collectors in North America and Europe there is evidence Philodendron hastatum may be somewhat endangered in its native Brazil and the species is currently found on the Red List of endangered species.  I sent a question asking if Philodendron hastatum was common or rare in southeastern Brazil to Brazilian aroid authority Dr. Eduardo Gonçalves (gon-ZAL-vas) formerly with the Universidade Catolica de Brasilia.  In a  personal response Eduardo made these comments: "Philodendron hastatum is not a common species here in Brazil.  I have seen it only a few times in many years (of) collecting aroids, comparing with other Southeastern Brazilian species.  I have to confess that our knowledge is not as good to say that it is endangered, but this is in fact a rare species and would be endangered in a few years if forest clearings continue as it is right now."  

Despite information posted on the internet, the scientific name Philodendron hastatum was never changed, collectors Philodendron domesticum, Photo Copyright 2008, Phil Nelson for Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota, FLhave simply chosen not to read beyond the title of the published paper which is in and of itself misleading. 

This is the exact quote written by botanist George S. Bunting (formerly of Cornell University) in his 1966 published paper entitled Philodendron domesticum, A New Name for P. hastatum Hort.  "The spade-leaf philodendron is a popular foliage plant with glossy bright green leaf blades to about 6 dm. long borne on equally long petioles. Its spathes are pale green outside but beautifully colored inside with cherry-red on the blade and wine-red on the tube. This taxon is commonly designated as Philodendron hastatum.   Such usage, however, is untenable, for the name properly belongs to a very different species.  Philodendron hastatum C. Koch & Sellow was first published in 1854"   Please read once again what Dr. Bunting was attempting to explain in his paper!

Dr. Bunting clearly stated he was not attempting to change the name of a scientifically known species.  Bunting also stated the common usage of a published scientific name for a non-related hybrid is "untenable" since the name Philodendron hastatum "properly belongs to a very different species.  Philodendron hastatum C. Koch & Sello" which was first published in 1854".    The "C. Koch" is taken directly from Bunting's paper (apparently published in error) since the name is correctly K. Koch. 

Horticulturalists and plant collectors simply misunderstood what Dr. Bunting was attempting to explain in his description, especially the title.  What he was saying was he was giving a horticultural name to a plant that had only the common name "Philodendron hastatum" but further explained that name should have never been in use.

Plant and garden discussion websites have also stated the name Philodendron hastatum is a synonym of Philodendron domesticum, but scientifically that is also incorrect.   In the horticultural sense the two names may be "synonymous" but they are not synonyms in the scientific form. 

Philodendron domesticum, Photo Copyright 2008, Phil Nelson for Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota, FLIn all published scientific material Philodendron hastatum K. Koch and Sellow is not listed as a synonym of any plant species known to science and is certainly not a synonym of Philodendron domesticum.  You may check the sources yourself to verify there are no synonyms for Philodendron domesticum on the The International Plant Names Index - Philodendron domesticum or the Missouri Botanical Garden's TROPICOS  

In fact, no site indicates where Philodendron domesticum has ever been observed in the wild.  Most indicate it is a hybrid rather than a species and none reference it to be the same species or even closely related to the hybrid now known as Philodendron domesticum.  If you would like to check for yourself here are the direct links to all the major sources:  International Plant Names Index  World Index of Selected Plant Families  CATE Araceae  TROPICOS

Based on the Linnean rules of nomenclature used by science such a name change would not possible due to the original date of publication.  Carl Linnaeus (1707– 1778) was a Swedish physician, zoologist and botanist who established the foundations for the scheme of binomial nomenclature used by science.   Linnaeus is considered the father of modern taxonomy, the system which defines the kingdom, phylum, class, genus, and species of any living organism.  

One of the most basic rules of taxonomy is the earliest published scientific name correct to genus becomes the accepted name.  Attempts to rename a species at a later date become invalid unless a major error can be demonstrated in the original publication.  No such error can be found in the publication of the species Philodendron hastatum.

There are beliefs posted on internet plant discussion groups that botanists are perpetually changing the scientific names of species.  The fact is if a name change is required that change will be done in accordance with the rules of science and botany as outlined by Linnaeus as a result of a demonstrated error.  Sometimes a factual error in the naming of a plant species may be discovered by a qualified botanist which requires that error to be corrected.  However, botanists do not simply grant new names to plant species to increase their own stature in science ot publish another paper. 

According to personal email exchanges with botanist Dr. Thomas B. Croat Ph.D., P.A. Schulze Curator of Botany of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, MO. as well as with aroid botanist Dr. Eduardo Gonçalves science knows exactly where Philodendron hastatum originated in nature Brazil.  However no scientist can tell you where Philodendron domesticum can be found in the wild since it has never been observed!  To be a species a plant should have been observed in its native habitat.

To the Aroid l discussion group sponsored by the International Aroid Society Dr. Croat also stated, "I am not familiar with what Bunting was calling Philodendron elongatum (and commonly referred to as P. hastatum in horticulture) but P. elongatum was described in 1966 many years after Engler described P. hastatum so P. hastatum cannot be a synonym of P. domesticum."   Philodendron hastatum petiole, Photo Copyright 2008, Steve Lucas, www.ExoticRainforest.comPlease refer back up a few paragraphs to the explanation of the use of "Engler".

In a personal email from Dr. Croat received March 3, 2007, Tom wrote, ""I have never seen the type of P. domesticum and doubt if I would know any more if I had seen it.  Just looking at the illustration I could imagine that it could be a dozen different species.  The reason why it is confused with P. hastatum K. Koch is that the plant he described had commonly been called P. hastatum.  Naturally it had nothing to do with P. hastatum.  It was just another cultivated plant of unknown origin.  He accomplished nothing by describing it and instead just created another plant likely never to be understood.   The paper by Sakuragui listed below just deals with the real P. hastatum and has nothing to do with the plant that Bunting described." 

Every leaf of a Philodendron is supported by a petiole (photo, above right).  The petiole extends outward from a node on the stem to the point where it joins with the leaf blade.  Despite a tendency for collectors to prefer to call a petiole "the stem", that is scientifically inaccurate.  The stem and petiole are completely different parts of a plant since the stem is the main support of a plant, often called the "cane" by a collector.  The stem is the base, central axis and support of a plant normally divided into nodes and internodes. The nodes often produce a complete leaf with a blade and petiole in the axil of which they also produce roots and hold buds which may grow into shoots of various forms. The stem's roots anchor the plant either to the ground, a tree or to a rock. A stem may even spread as a repent rhizome creeping across the soil.

The petioles of Philodendron hastatum are firm and flexible and if cut as a cross section may be observed to be bluntly "D" shaped in that cross section.   Such features as the shape of the petiole, the structure of the leaf veins along with other characteristics are important since they are used to positively identify a species.

The leaf blades of Philodendron hastatum are less than leathery to the touch (sub-coriaceous) and are semi-glossy on the upper (adaxial) surface.  Rather than having dark green as the primary blade color Philodendron hastatum is often a mixture of gray/green and blue gray with elongated (somewhat lanceolate) leaf blades.  Each newly emerging leaf blade is protected by a cataphyll.  The cataphyll is a bract like modified leaf that surrounds any newly emerging blade and whose purpose is to protect that new leaf.

Parts of a Philodendron including the petiole, stem, root, leaf blade and cataphyll, Photo Copyright 2008, Steve Lucas, www.ExoticRainforest.comThe primary lateral leaf veins are slightly sunken on the upper surface but are convex on the abaxial (lower) side.  The minor leaf veins are fine in appearance when compared to the primary veins, are closely spaced and only slightly distinct. 

Philodendron and aroid species are extremely variable and as can be seen in the photos on this page may take on different blade shapes.  Those differences in blade shapes from the juvenile form to the fully adult form are in part the reasons Philodendron hastatum has been granted more than one scientific name (now synonyms).  This quote is taken from the scientific paper Nomenclature and Taxonomy of Philodendron hastatum K. Koch and Sellow and Taxonomy of the species Philodendron hastatum by Cássia M. Sakuragui & Simon J. Mayo, "The morphological variation of the leaves, from juvenile to adult stages, makes specimens identification difficult, especially sterile ones. The major problem, however, seems to be the confusion among the different names that may appear on the labels indiscriminately, such P. hastifolium (of various authors) and P. elongatum Engler.  The present paper aims to clarify some of the problems linked to the name P. hastatum C. Koch & Sello and to suggest a specimen for the neotypification of this name." 

Plant collectors often incorrectly use the name "Philodendron glaucophyllum" in place of the scientific name Philodendron hastatum.  The name "Philodendron glaucophyllum" is a fictitious name and is one some unknown person simply made up to sound as if it were scientific!  The name "Philodendron glaucophyllum" appears to be sourced in the plant collector's guide Tropica by A. B. Graf but has no basis in science and cannot be found on any of the scientific sources given earlier in this article.   The name Philodendron elongatum is also used in place of Philodendron hastatum but that name has been determined to be only a synonym of the species (same species, other name) that was published after the original name.

 America's top aroid botanist Dr. Tom Croat responded with this information while answering a question regarding the name "glaucophyllum" posted on the forum Aroid l, "That was a made up but unpublished name for P. hastatum Engler, a species from the area of Rio de Janeiro".  He went on to add, "According to my records P. elongatum is a synonym of P. hastatum Engler and the images I have look identical to those of P. hastatum."  

All Philodendron species are aroids.  An aroid is a plant that reproduces by producing an inflorescence known to science as a spathe and spadix.   Many people assume the spathe is a "flower". which is not correct, the spathe is nothing more than a modified leaf appearing to be a hood .   Within the inflorescence at sexual anthesis there are very tiny flowers on the spadix at the center of the inflorescence.   (see the photo at right for an explanation of the parts of a Philodendron inflorescence.  The spathe of Philodendron hastatum is a cream white on the interior with a greenish exterior.   Based on George Bunting's description of Philodendron domesticum, the spathe is " pale green outside but beautifully colored inside with cherry-red on the blade and wine-red on the tube" 

he photo of the inflorescence of Philodendron hastatum K. Koch & Philodendron hastatum (not Philodedndron domesticum), inflorescence, spathe, spadix, Photo Copyright Mr. SubjunctiveSellow is courtesy of "Mr. Subjunctive",  Plants are the strangest people

Once an aroid enters anthesis the spadix produces tiny flowers, both male, female as well as sterile male flowers.  The male flowers produce pollen at male anthesis and the female flowers, which are hidden from view inside the lower portion of the spathe known as the floral chamber, are receptive to that pollen when they become sexually mature. 

Despite the fact many plant growers believe the spathe is a "flower", that assumption is incorrect.   The flowers of an aroid are very small and can be found on the spadix at the center of the inflorescence when the plant is ready to reproduce. 

In nature an aroid's inflorescence signals it is ready to enter sexual anthesis by emitting a perfume-like odor known scientifically as a pheromone.  The pheromone is propelled as a result of thermogenesis (heat-birth) when the aroid is at sexual anthesis.  The perfume is attractive to the natural insect pollinator and can be detected at distances of at least 200 meters (650 feet) by a beetle found in the genus Cyclocephala known as a Scarab beetle.  The pollinators of aroids are primarily beetles from that genus which fly in a zigzag pattern back and forth through the rain forest in to follow the pheromone to its source.   The pheromone cannot travel in a straight line due to the variable wind flow through the rain forest trees.  At the bottom of this page you will find an illustration of the parts of a Philodendron inflorescence. 
This link offers additional information on the reproductive cycle of an aroid,

My personal thanks to Dr. Tom Croat and Dr. Eduardo Gonçalves for their personal responses to my questions regarding Philodendron hastatum.  My additional thanks to botanist David Scherberich,  Phil Nelson and Harry Luther of the Marie Selby Botanical Garden in Sarasota, FL for providing photos of Philodendron domesticum and to Australian collector Michael Pascall for the use of his photo of Philodendron elongatum (synonym of Philodendron hastatum) as well as "Mr. Subjunctive" for the use of his photo of the inflorescence of Philodendron hastatum.

George Bunting's paper explaining why his intent was never to change the scientific name of the recognized species Philodendron hastatum K Koch & Sellow.  Somehow, most people fail to read past the opening headline.

Philodendron domesticum,
A New Name for P, hastatum Hort. [Araceae]
George S, Bunting*

The spade-leaf philodendron is a popular foliage plant with glossy bright green leaf blades to about 6 dm. long borne on equally long petioles. Its spathes are pale green outside but beautifully colored inside with cherry-red on the blade and wine-red on the tube. This taxon is commonly designated as Philodendron hastatum. Such usage, however, is untenable, for the name properly belongs to a very different species. Philodendron hastatum C. Koch & Sellows first published in 1855 I Index Seminum Hort,1 Berpl. App. 7). Adult growth of this taxon was originally described as having hastate-elongate leaf blades to 1 1/2 feet (4. 5 dm* ) long, with an anterior lobe about 3 inches (7.5 cm. ) wide, and oblong, divergent basal lobes. The ovaries were stated to be multilocular, with six to eight ovules in each locule. This species appears to be native in the vicinity of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and is not known to be in the horticultural trade in the United States.

On the other hand, the plant commonly cultivated in this country as P, hastatum has ovate-lanceolate leaf blades decidedly sagittate at the base, and six to seven-locular ovaries with one to two ovules in each locule. The leaf blade may be as much as 3 dm. wide, and toward the base of the anterior lobe the margins are somewhat convex (i. e. , they bow outward slightly). Origin of this material is unknown.

Since the name P. hastatum must be applied to that taxon with which it was originally associated, a new name must be found for the cultivated species. A search of the literature has revealed no available name, and a new one is here proposed. Philodendron domesticum Bunt. , nom. nov.

HOLOTYPE: Bunting 1454. Growing at Fairchild Tropical Garden on wall at foot of south steps beside small lily pool in the L. H. Bailey Palmglade, 13 April 1962

Leaf blades of P. domesticum are widest at a point well above the petiole attachment, being widest about 12 cm. above it in the largest leaves. Each basal lobe has about three strong lateral veins arising on the inner (upper) side of the basal rib. ln leaves subtending inflorescences, the vaginate part of the petiole is cherry-red within. Birdsey (he Cultivated Aroids. 82. 1951) stated that "there are two species sold in the trade under this name hastatum," but that they can be distinguished vegetatively only by a very slight difference in size, shape, and coloration. " Not withstanding, he left the problem unresolved, and described only one of the taxa, under the name P. "hastaturn." That taxon differs from P. domesticum in having much longer peduncles to 23 cm. long, and smaller spathes only 13.5 crm. long, with the blade light green inside. The number of ovules in each locule of that taxon was not noted. The plant illustrated in Birdsey‘s photograph (op. cit., 83) is certainly indistinguishable from P. domesticum.

Whatever taxon Birdsey was describing, it is unfamilar to me, and may still lack a valid name. On the other hand, the plant here described as P. dlomesticum is the spade-leaf philodendron that I have commonly encountered in the horticultural trade, and the one included by A. B. Graf in his Exotica 3, pages 115, 203, and 204 (1963).
The specific epithet domesticum, meaning " of the home," was suggested by the wide use of plants of this taxon for decorative purposes indoors. described only one of the taxa, under have commonly encountered in the horticultural trade for decorative purposes indoors.



The drawing included with George Buntings original description of Philodnendron domesticum Hort.



All photos on this page, unless otherwise credited, are the property of Steve Lucas,  
Photos Copyright 2006, 2007, 2008 Steve Lucas


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Parts of a Philodenron inflorescence, Photo Copyright 2008, steve Lucas,


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