Anthurium scherzerianum (flamingo flower)
These popular houseplants are known as flamingo flowers owing to the resemblance of the flowering parts to the body and twisted neck of a flamingo.
Anthurium scherzerianum in the Princess of Wales Conservatory
Not yet assessed according to IUCN criteria.
Montane rainforest. This species is epiphytic (growing on trees) or terrestrial (growing on the ground).
All parts of the plant may have irritant effects when handled.
About this species
Anthurium scherzerianum is one of over 1,000 species in the genus Anthurium (the largest genus in the Araceae family) and was described by Heinrich Wilhelm Schott, Director of the Imperial Gardens at Vienna, in 1857. Schott was the earliest botanist to specialise almost exclusively in the Araceae. Anthurium scherzerianum and A. andraeanum are the only two scarlet anthuriums, and both are sometimes known by the common name 'flamingo flower'.
Geography and distribution
This species is found in Costa Rica at elevations of 1,300 to 2,100 m. It occurs in montane rainforest on the Atlantic slope of the Cordillera Central and the Cordillera de Talamanca.
This perennial species shows a clump-forming habit, and may grow on trees (as an epiphyte) or on the ground (terrestrial).
Anthurium scherzerianum has spreading, oblong to elliptic, leathery leaves, up to 25 cm long and 8 cm wide. The leaf blades are held on a petiole (leaf stalk) up to 20 cm long. Both sides of the leaf blade are dotted with minute dark glands. The large, showy spathe (8 to 10 cm long) is scarlet to orange-red and broadly oval. The orange-red spadix is usually coiled upward and may be up to 8 cm long. Euglossine bees are possible pollinators. The fruits are orange to red.
Cultivars of this species include Anthurium scherzerianum 'Album' with a white spathe and yellow spadix, 'Rothschildianum' with a densely white-dotted spathe and 'Wardii' with a large ruby-red spathe and long red spadix.
Anthuriums became fashionable as house plants during the nineteenth century. They are prized for their showy appearance and the longevity of cut stalks in water, which may last up to eight weeks. Numerous hybrids and cultivars of Anthurium scherzerianum have been developed for both these characteristics.
The popularity of anthuriums as ornamentals led to a rapid rise in their value in the horticulture and cut-flower industries. Anthuriums were historically grown in the shade of cocoa and citrus in producing regions such as Trinidad and Tobago. Today, plants are grown intensively under cover and are often multiplied using micropropagation techniques. The inflorescences are graded for the cut flower industry according to the width of the spathe.
Some species of Anthurium are used traditionally in medicine or to perfume tobacco.
Anthurium scherzerianum is commonly found in cultivation throughout the world, and many different forms are recognised.
It is cultivated in the aroid zone of the Tropical Nursery, one of the behind-the-scenes areas of Kew. Here, plants are mounted on cork-oak bark (Quercus suber) with flat moss, which helps to keep the roots moist. Alternatively, they can be grown in a compost mix with a high organic content. The plants are kept at about 25 °C and 85% relative humidity. They are watered or heavily misted every day (twice a day during the summer) and benefit from a weekly feed. The plants are protected from high light intensity in the nursery during summer by the use of automatic shading.
This species at Kew
Stunning examples of Anthurium scherzerianum can be seen as part of the annual Tropical Extravaganza festival in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. This species is also grown in the Tropical Nursery (one of the behind-the-scenes area of Kew).
Bown, D. (2000). Aroids: plants of the Arum Family. Timber Press.
Govaerts, R. & Frodin, D.G. (2002). World Checklist and Bibliography of Araceae (and Acoraceae). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Mabberley, D.J. (2008). Mabberley's Plant-Book. A Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses. 3rd Ed. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Kew Science Editor: Marcelo Sellaro
Kew contributors: Olwen Grace (Sustainable Uses Group)
Copy editing: Emma Tredwell
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