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  Need Basic Info for Beginner in Aroids
From: shedigsdirt at comcast.net (sherri) on 2008.02.29 at 14:19:29(17105)
I'm looking for basic information for garden club newbies, if anyone wants
to help. In researching for an Educational Exhibit, I've discovered that
some of my favorite plants in Houma, Louisiana -Zone 9- are "Aroids" not
just Caladiums or Philodendrons or Anthuriums!! A google search comes back
with such a dizzying array of information it is mind-boggling. Would
greatly appreciate advice on breaking down the data, while not dumbing it
down. Thanks, Sherri

From: dburch23 at bellsouth.net (derek burch) on 2008.02.29 at 18:44:22(17108)

Let me give you the very basics in accurate words, and you can then let me
know if I should tell you more.

Aroids is the affectionate (common) name for members of a plant family
Araceae (which I pronounce A race ee, although others put in more syllables
for the family ending). just as the Orchidaceae are known as orchids, and
the Cactaceae as cactus, Bromeliaceae as bromeliads and so on..

The family lies in the broad division of the flowering plants known as
monocots because of a number of characters that separate these from the
other bunch, the dicots. I can tell you a little about similar families if
you like, although many of them would be unfamiliar to your audience.

It is one of the few families in which almost every member is easily
recognized when in flower by the characteristic way in which the flowers are
formed. The inflorescence (the flowers all together) consists of a more or
less fleshy stalk into which the individual flowers are (more or less)
sunken. This is called the spadix. There are a few exceptions, because if a
plant CAN do something, one of them almost always WILL.

Sometimes the flowers on one plant will all be of one sex, but this is not
all that common in this family. If it is so, that species would be said to
be dioecious (two homes for the two sexes). Most often both sexes are
represented in one inflorescence (monoecious) , and the sexes may be
separate flower by flower or both in each of the flowers (or some
combination of these situations - remember, if a plant CAN do something, one
of them almost always WILL). A flower with only one sex is said to be
imperfect, although it performs the single function perfectly well. When
both sexes are in one flower, that flower is said to be perfect. If the
flowers are imperfect, those of each sex are usually all together on
separate parts of the spadix, and are often separated by a sterile or
sometimes intermediate zone (remember, if a plant CAN do something, one of
them almost always WILL). The spadix may also be topped by a sterile piece
which turns out, very often, to be an area that puts off chemical
substances, often into the air, that attract insects (pollinators and

Almost always associated with the spadix is a modified leaf or bract that is
called the spathe. This may be very colorful as in the florists' anthuriums.
In these it is flattened and very showy. In many others the spathe surrounds
the spadix more or less completely, and will usually open part way at
various times during the period of flowering to allow insects to get to the
flowers. The time at which the male and female flowers are active (the males
producing pollen and the females receptive) is often different, and the
various combinations of timing and allowing insects to visit them is a study
of itself. In fact the International Aroid Society has a number of members,
otherwise apparently normal human beings, who have spent their working lives
looking at what is going one here.

Is this enough to get you started? You may have to miss out the racy parts
when giving a public talk in Houma, but it really is a fascinating subject.
If you have a chance, get the library to get the book called 'Plants of the
Arum Family' by Deni Bown. She will lead you along all the paths of growth
habit, variation in form and where they live (remember, if a plant CAN do
something, one of them almost always WILL) and into the uses for food and
medicine that makes the rest of the fascinating story. Any wonder that we
love aroids.

Please let me know if I can help more, and good luck with your talk..


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