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A detail of the plant


(Dieffenbachia cultivation)


Scientific noun: Dieffenbachia ssp.

Common noun: Dieffenbachia

Family: Arum family - Araceae
Characteristics: Perennial tropical plant up to 2,5 m. Erect stems, thick and fleshy with big leaves ending in pointed apex; largely petiolated, marbled with white or yellow. Flowers in spadix surrounded by a sheath-like leaf; small, white-greenish. . It rarely flourishes when it is cultivated , only sometimes at the beginning of spring when the plant is well grown-up.

Active principles

Active parts: The juice of the plant, especially in its stems and in the petioles of the leaves.


  • As a toxin to poison the arrows: : The juice of the plant has been used by the native Amazonian people to be part of the preparations with which they poisoned the arrows.
  • As a gardening plant : The dieffenbachia is an ornamental plant that is used fundamentally like an indoor plant. (See gardening details)


Toxicity: Medium. The toxicity of this plant is due to its content in calcium oxalates. (Theories exist on the presence of other components, as proteolytic enzymes that propitiate the histamine production) Their sap is irritating because of the presence of these component that appears in form of crystals that damages the skin tissues by contact, when injecting this component. The calcium oxalate has, also, vomitive, irritating and inflammatory properties and it is, together with the calcium, one of the main reasons for the production of kidney stones . Calcium and magnesium oxalates are two of the main components of poisonous plants.

Equally its ingestion produces the irritation and inflammation of gastric mucous and it can damage the kidneys, the arteries, or the stomach of those who eat it.

Symptoms: It can produce dermatitis in the skin, with reddening , itchiness or burning pain . More serious symptoms can appear such as bladders or ulcers. Its contact with the eyes, it produces irritation and transitory lost of vision.

When its juice is ingested, it can produce vomits or diarrhea and even big inflammations of the digestive tract, especially in the mouth, the throat and the lips. A big ingestion of the plant can end up producing breathing difficulty, which is not very habitual. The accidents are usually more common in children who chew the leaves, which produces a quick irritation with inflammation of the mucous membranes and a great salivation. The quick action of the toxins of this plant usually propitiates its spitting what prevents the patient to continue chewing it . Although there have been registered more severe cases, it usually gives rise to very painful local inflammations that don't usually affect to the circulatory system or respiratory tract. Among the most habitual symptoms we found : swallowing difficulty , salivation, lost of sensibility with tingling sensation in the tongue, itchiness or ulcerations in the lips.

It is a plant whose ingestion is toxic for the domestic animals. There have been registered many cases of intoxication with mortal result in dogs, cats, rabbits and canaries that ate it. The symptoms are similar to those produced on people.

Treatment : Mouth rinsing with plenty of water to eliminate the small pieces of the plant that could still remain in the mouth. Demulcents to alleviate the irritation and soothe the membranes. Immediate medical care with antihistamines and analgesics is required.

Being such a habitual plant in our homes it is advised to be wise in its manipulation (it is convenient to use gloves when one has to cut a leaf) and it is very convenient to take it away from the reach of the small children to avoid some possible accident.

There are about 30 different species approximately. Among all we would mention the following ones:


Dieffenbachia seguine

Dieffenbachia maculata

Dieffenbachia bausei

Dieffenbachia imperialis

Dieffenbachia aerstedii



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