Understanding Araceae Plants: A Dive Into Different Plant Families

Araceae is one of the most diverse plant families. They belong to the Alismatales order, which makes them gorgeous flowering plants. These herbaceous plants are found worldwide, particularly in the tropics.

Common genera in the arum, or Araceae family, are Philodendrons, Spathiphyllum, Dieffenbachia, and Colocasia.

Each of these plants has different characteristics and growth requirements. Yet, they all share the distinct large foliage of Araceae plants and the unique inflorescence surrounded by a colourful spathe.

What Are Araceae Plants?

Araceae plants are a family of flowering plants within the Alismatales order. They comprise over 4,000 and 140 genera.

While this is an incredibly large number, the plants are easily recognizable due to their thermogenic flowers, tuberous roots, and the presence of calcium oxalate crystals.

These features serve to protect the plants in nature. For example, the calcium oxalate crystals make many parts of the plant toxic.

When ingested, even a small amount can cause a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, airway edema, and hyperventilation.

Also known as arum or aroid plants, many of these gorgeous plants double as ornamental flowers due to their exceptional inflorescence. They’re identifiable through the distinct inflorescence, known as a spadix, which is surrounded by a bract.

Types of Plants in the Araceae Family

The Araceaea family encompasses a diverse range of plants, from Philodendrons to Anthuriums. Each of these species has distinct morphological features and grows in different climates.

Here are some of the most popular Araceae plants:

  1. Philodendrons

Philodendrons are a popular flowering plant genus in the Araceae family. They’re known for their marvellous foliage and their ease of care.

In particular, the leaves of philodendrons are large and glossy, coming in various shapes and textures, such as Heartleaf Philodendron, Philodendron Advena, and Thaumatophyllum.

These plants are native to Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. Philodendrons often grow as epiphytes, thriving in warm, humid rainforests.

  1. Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily)

Spathiphyllum, also known as Peace Lily, is one of the most splendid plants in the Araceae family. This genus has about 47 species of evergreen perennial plants.

All species are characterised by their large dark green leaves and their central inflorescence surrounded by a white spathe (modified leaf).

As the name suggests, the white flowers of Spathiphyllum symbolise peace, purity, and healing. They’re also relatively easy to grow. For this reason, they make perfect indoor plants.

  1. Zamioculcas Zamiifolia

Another admired Araceae genus is the Zamioculcas zamiifolia. Most people refer to this genus as ZZ plants or Zanzibar Gem. Other common names include Zuzu plants and Aroid palms.

The leaves of ZZ plants are glossy and dark green, coming in multiple shapes and sizes. The plants are easily propagated, and the leaves grow up to 60 cm long.

The plants are native to eastern Africa, specifically in Tanzania and Kenya. They’re exceptional indoor plants, as they tolerate drought and low light.

  1. Monstera Deliciosa (Swiss Cheese Plant)

Monstera Deliciosa, commonly referred to as Swiss Cheese Plant, is one of the most unique genera in the Araceae family. The appropriately named plant is popular for the distinctive holes and splits that develop in the leaves as the plant grows.

These holes aren’t indicative of any disease, though. Instead, it’s thought that the fenestration serves to reduce wind damage and increase water uptake.

Monstera deliciosa is a climbing plant native to Central and South America. While the plant contains calcium oxalate crystals, the ripe fruits are edible, with a flavour similar to pineapples and bananas.

  1. Amorphophallus Titanum (Corpse Flower)

Amorphophallus titanum is a fascinating plant in the Araceae family. It’s definitely hard to miss due to its great size. It holds the record for the largest unbranched inflorescence, reaching up to three metres long.

The Corpse Flower emits a pungent odour and generates heat when flowering. This helps attract pollinators and deter herbivores.

It’s native to Indonesia and grows in tropical climates. Due to overharvesting and loss of the natural habitat, Amorphophallus titanum is considered a rare, endangered species.

  1. Dieffenbachia (Dumbcane)

Another member of the Araceae family is the Dieffenbachia. Often referred to as Dumbcane plant or Leopard Lily, Dieffenbachia naturally occurs in Central and South America, where it thrives as a tropical understory plant.

Depending on the species, Dumbcane can have solid, dark leaves, or spotted leaves, resembling leopard specks.

The compact, bushy plant is toxic due to the calcium oxalate crystals. While it’s an attractive indoor plant, you should avoid it if you have pets.

  1. Alocasia (Elephant Ear Plants)

Alocasia are large-leaved plants in the family Araceae. The plant grows in subtropical climates, including Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands.

Due to the gigantic size of the leaves, the plants are commonly known as Elephant Ear plants. They have multiple colours, ranging from green and yellow to silver and purple.

Accordingly, Alocasia makes perfect indoor ornamental plants. Still, they’re inedible as they also have calcium oxalate raphides.

  1. Aglaonema (Chinese Evergreens)

Aglaonema is a genus of tropical evergreens belonging to the family Araceae. The plants are found in tropical and subtropical regions of China, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Also known as Chinese Evergreens, they have large, elliptical, dark green leaves, with silver patches.

Unfortunately, Aglaonema is highly toxic to humans and animals. So, you should be careful when growing them as indoor ornaments.

  1. Zantedeschia (Calla Lilies)

Zantedeschia are common plants in the Araceae family. They’re native to southern Africa.

These plants are probably one of the most recognizable aroids.

Many people know them by their common names, Calla lilies or trumpet and pig lilies. The gorgeous flowers come in numerous colours, including white, red, purple, and orange. Furthermore, the plant’s lush, glossy foliage adds to its ornamental value.

  1. Syngonium (Arrowhead Plants)

Syngonium podophyllum is a genus in the Araceae family. It’s native to subtropical regions in Central and South America.

As for the common name, many people refer to Syngonium as Arrowhead plants due to the shape of their leaves.

The attractive foliage of Arrowheads and their low maintenance make them prized ornamental plants. Yet, you should note that the leaves and stems are highly toxic.

  1. Colocasia (Elephant Ear Plants)

Another Elephant Ear variant in the Araceae family is Colocasia. Similarly to Alocasia, this genus possesses large foliage, growing up to several feet long. That said, Colocasia is popular for its edible tuber.

Taro plants grow in subtropical regions of Asia and Polynesia. Since these plants have large rhizomes and leaves, they’re not suitable as indoor plants.

  1. Anthurium

Anthurium is one of the most beautiful and the largest genera in the Araceae family. These plants are popular for their waxy flowers and vibrant foliage. They grow in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.

The mesmerising flowering plants have various names, including Flamingo flower, Painter’s Palette, Laceleaf, and Taliflower.

Anthurium plants can be grown as houseplants, with their heart-shaped spathe adding a gorgeous allure to any room. Still, you must keep in mind that they’re toxic to pets and humans.

  1. Cryptocorynes

Cryptocorynes, or crypts, are aquatic plants in the Araceae family. The plants, known as water trumpets, are naturally distributed in tropical areas of India, New Guinea, and Southeast Asia.

Crypts are perfect aquarium plants. They also have various foliage, which can be narrow, lanceolate, ovate, green, or bronze.

  1. Arisaema (Jack-in-the-Pulpits)

Arisaema triphyllum is a perennial herbaceous plant in the family Araceae. It grows in woodland regions in America, Europe, and Asia.

The plant has a unique inflorescence in that it consists of a central spandex, surrounded by a striped, hood-like spathe. For this reason, this plant is commonly known as Jack-in-the-pulpit, Cobra lily, and Bog onion.

Typically, each plant produces a single flower and leaf each growth season. So, it’s a pretty distinct ornamental flower.

  1. Arum Maculatum (Wild Arum)

Arum Maculatum is a common Araceae genus native across Europe, North Africa, and Asia. Its other names include Wild Arum, Lords-and-Ladies, and Cuckoo Pint.

The plant has a rather distinct shape, possessing the same central inflorescence and spathe as other members of the Araceae family. What sets this plant apart, though, is the growth of berries from the inflorescence during summer.

You should handle Wild Arum with extreme care, as all parts of the plant are toxic to humans and animals.

Araceae Plant Characteristics

While there are countless genera and species of Araceae plants, most of them share similar characteristics, including:

  • Morphology: Typically herbaceous, with rhizomes or tubers.
  • Foliage: Large broad leaves, which can be solid-coloured or variegated.
  • Inflorescence: Central spadix surrounded by a modified leaf, varying in size and colour.
  • Toxicity: Most parts contain calcium oxalate crystals.

Native Araceae Plants in Australia

Araceae plants are commonly found in tropical and subtropical regions. Accordingly, these plants can thrive in the humid climate of Australia.

While Araceae isn’t native to Australia, Taro (Alocasia) has been naturalised in certain areas. In particular, Giant Taro has become established in the wild in Queensland and New South Wales.

Here are some other Araceae genera that have been introduced in Australia:

  • Amorphophallus
  • Arisarum
  • Colocasia
  • Pothos
  • Typhonium
  • Zantedeschia

Best Araceae Plants to Grow Indoors

Araceae are exceptional houseplants. First, they’re incredibly low maintenance, making them ideal for beginners.

What’s more, Araceae plants have gorgeous foliage and distinct flowers, adding charm to your home.

Unfortunately, if you have pets or children, it’s best to keep away from Araceae. That’s because some Araceae species are entirely toxic, while others contain some toxic organs.

Still, with the proper safety precautions, here are some Araceae plants that are perfect to grow indoors:

  1. Philodendron
  2. Anthurium
  3. Aglaonema
  4. Monstera
  5. Syngonium
  6. Zantedeschia