I have been following the many threads of the discussion about Philo.
Santa Leopoldina, and now hope to clear up some confusion. What started the
confusion for me years ago was seeing the pictures in Graf's Exotica and
Tropica labeled as Santa Leopoldina. These plants are clearly what we are
now calling Philo. superbum, and not spiritus-sancti. When this plant was
sold as S. L. in the US and Australia, few people knew of the real plant.
The second major confusion about Santa Leopoldina came from Bette
Waterbury's article. The picture on page 8 shows a long leafed form, and the
caption says that this is type 3, which is more hastate and silvery green.
THIS IS A TYPO. It was never corrected in a future Aroideana. In Bette's
letters, she makes note of the typo, but does not say what the correct type
is. It is clearly type 1 or type 2, which are spiritus-sancti. If the photo
was in color, we could tell if it was the red form or the green form. We may
never know since the original photos are lost.
Bette's type 3 and type 4 are most likely Philo. atobapoense. They can be
silvery green, red backed, or completely green. I have seen the same plant
show all these forms at different stages of development.
Telling these plants apart is easy when you are dealing with large leaves.
Spiritus-sancti has longer narrower leaves that average 6 to 8 times longer
than wide. Superbum and Atobapoense have leaves that average 3 to 4 times
longer than wide. But on smaller plants these ratios are not as obvious. So
we look at the petioles, which are completely different.
Spiritus-sancti, the real Santa Leopoldina, has petioles that are
U-shaped to rounded in cross section. they are not wider than they are tall.
the big feature is that they are sulcate or canaliculate on the top surface,
meaning they have a groove or channel. this groove is fairly deep and
obvious, V-shaped, and has ridges on the top edges. these ridges are at
about 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock, and not at the widest points like in a
D-shaped petiole. The stem also has random red dots.
Philo. atobapoense, or type 3 and 4, has petioles that are rounded to
oval shaped in cross section. they are usually wider than tall, and have no
canal or ridges. the top surface is slightly sunken on larger leaves, but is
also much wider. also has red dots olong the stem.
Philo. superbum, the false leopoldina, has petioles that are truly
unique. They are D-shaped in cross-section, with a fairly flat top, and
rounded top edges. the most obvious feature is the longitudinal lines and
grooves all along the stem. they are white green on top, cbanging to red on
the bottom, with no red dots like the others. and certainly no channels or
So the people who have posted photos of these plants should be able to
put a name on these just by the shape of the petioles.
The propagation of spiritus-sancti by cuttings is a slow process since it
is such a slow grower. But it may be our only hope. Tissue culture has
failed twice that I know of. And seed propagation may be very unlikely also.
Six flowers on 2 different plants this past summer failed to perform like
normal philos. The females didn't act receptive or heat up, and no pollen
was shed during the male phase to pollinate the next opening flower. It's no
wonder that they are a rare plant.
I hope this has been some help.
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