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Cyrtosperma Griff., as the genus is presently understood, consists of eleven species, ten of them Papuasian, and one, Cyrtosperma merkusii, from the Malay Peninsula, the Philippines, Borneo, Sumatra, Java, and Oceania.
As Dr. A. Hay has pointed out in his excellent account of some of the Cyrtosperma species in his book, Aroids of Papua New Guinea, several species are desirable as horticultural subjects, but are presently almost unknown in cultivation.
Cyrtosperma johnstonii, which suckers freely in cultivation, is the only species commonly found in horticulture. It is said to have been originally collected in the Solomon Islands, probably at Hapan, Buka Island, but additional research needs to be done.
Cyrtosperma merkusii, the most widespread species, used to be cultivated as a food crop in a manner similar to taro (Colocasia) throughout much of it's range, and a few colonies grow to an enormous height of up to six meters! Other non-selected "wild" forms grow to become attractive though spiny plants at approximately one meter in height.
Species that are potentially excellent horticultural subjects, both for their long lasting inflorescence and spectacular foliage, are Cyrtosperma cuspidispathum, Cyrtosperma macrotum, Cyrtosperma carii, and Cyrtosperma beccarianum.
Dr. Hay and Mr. Arden Dearden have produced a cross, Cyrtosperma cuspidispathum crossed with Cyrtosperma beccarianum, that has turned out to be a beautiful plant, it's leaves exhibiting the huge rear lobes of both it's parents, it's elongate spathe a beautiful shade of pinkish-purple, and its petioles attractively colored. Hopefully it will become available to aroid lovers soon.
This genus is very sensitive to cool weather and must be protected from even the cooler days here in Florida when the temperature falls to around 16o Celsius (60o Fahrenheit ) with wind.
With a little effort from intrepid collectors, these wonderful plants could become available to growers worldwide, and surely deserve a place in all aroid collections.
The author acknowledges the technical assistance of Scott Hyndman (web page development) and Lester Kallus (imaging).
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