Start PageInfructescences and Fruiting BehaviorBerry Color


Berries of Philodendron are cylindroid to obovoid, generally with a thickened cap-like apex generally not markedly colorous though colors from pale yellow to bright orange or even red to purple do exist (See section on Berry Color). Berries in P. subg. Philodendron are universally soft and fleshy except for the frequently thickened apex. The seeds can be seen easily through the sides of the berries. When fully mature the apical portion of the berry is easily torn free and the thin, fragile sides of the berries are easily ruptured (See section on seeds).

Though little is known about fruit dispersal, the mesocarp surrounding the seeds contained within each locule is juicy or gelatinous and is usually sweet and sticky, making it logically animal dispersed. Infructescences are frequently seen which appear to have been pecked apart by birds (Fig. 36). Certainly the sticky seeds, often many per berry, would logically be easily dispersed on birds beaks. Alternatively the infructescence is large, and even faintly scented when fully mature, making it an appealing meal even for mammals such as monkeys. Grayum (1996) theorizes that those species of P. subg. Pteromischum with whitish fruits which may produce a garlic-like or pepper-like odor at night are dispersed by bats. Those with orange fruits may be dispersed by diurnal animals. Certainly the manner in which many species of P. subg. Pteromischum flower, e.g., on the ends of short, spreading branches some meters above the ground, would make them superbly positioned as bat fruits, many of which are comparably positioned for easy access to a night-flying creature. There are also species of P. subg. Philodendron, such as P. lentii, which have their branches held in a similar manner. Another probable disperser of seeds is ants. I have seen two different species of ants carrying away individual seeds of Philodendron. Ant dispersal is certainly important for those species, such as P. megalophyllum in South America, which live almost exclusively on ant nests. One cultivated individual of that species even set fruit repeatedly without being pollinated, indicating that it had perhaps lost its ability to outcross. Instead a steady and abundant supply of berries for its ant dispersers would assure the species widespread dispersal in time. Indeed the species is particularly successful, even in areas of white sand soil where soil nutrients are very low.