Family • Araceae - Dieffenbachia picta (Lodd.) Schott. - DUMB CANE

Scientific names

Dieffenbachia picta (Lodd.) Schott.
Dieffenbachia maculata (Lodd.) G. Don
Caladium maculatum Lodd.

Common names

Dieffenbachia (Engl.)
Dumb cane (Engl.)

Dieffenbachia picta is a long-lived, evergreen, perennial herb growing to height of 1 to 1.5 meters. Stem is branchless, about 2.5 centimeters thick, cylindrical, tinged with leaf scars, and erect with the base usually reclining. Leaves concentrated towards the apical part of the stem, the stalk elongated, broadly grooved, the lower part forming a sheath around the stem. Leaves are 20 to 40 centimeters long, 10 to 20 centimeters wide, oblong to broadly lanced-shaped, dark to glossy green on both sides, with numerous white or yellowish spots or streaks, the base rounded to acute, the tip narrow. Flower cluster is white, erect, subtended and partly enclosed by a leaflike spathe. Flowers are stalkless, the males crowded on the upper part of the cluster, the females on the lower, the latter enclosed the spathe’s tubular base. Fruits are berries, orange when ripe.

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Studies on Dieffenbachia picta Schott: Toxic effects in guinea pigs / Ângela M. Ladeira, Sylvia O. Andrade, Paulo Sawaya / Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, Vol 34, No 3, December 1975, Pages 363–373

(2) Ability of eugenol to reduce tongue edema induced by Dieffenbachia picta Schott in mice / Etyene Castro Dip, Nuno Alvarez Pereira, Patricia Dias Fernandes / Toxicon, Volume 43, Issue 6, May 2004, Pages 729–735


– The most common cultivated Diffenbachia species of the Philippines.
– Usually grown as a potted plant for its handsome foliage.
– Native to Brazil.

– Leaf oil yielded major constituents of pyrimidine-5-carboxylic acid, 4-(1,3-dimethyl-1H-pyrazol-4-yl)-6-methyl-2- thioxo-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-methyl ester (5.814%), 5-methyl-2-phenylindolizine (2.957%), 1- (3-methylbutyl)-4-(4,4,5,5-tetramethyl-1,3,2-dioxaborolan-2-yl)-1H-Pyrazole (2.764%),
Dichotine, 19-hydroxy-11methoxytriacetate methylpiperazin-1-yl)benzo[1,2,5]diazol-1-oxide methoxycarbonyl-1H-2-benzopyran-3-one ethanediylbis[diphenylphosphine]-p-p’]hydro[(1,2,3,4,5-β)-1-methyl-2,4-cyclopentadien-1- yl] Iron (2.067%) and 9,10-dihyro-9,10,11-trimethyl-9,10-methano anthracen-11-ol (1.011%).


– The common name dumb-cane derives from the acrid and poisonous juice numbs the tongue.

No reported folkloric medicinal use in the Philippines.


Study Fndings
• Toxicity: Toxicity results from brine shrimp lethality test showed a higher level of toxicity in the leaf than the stem essential oils.
• Antimicrobial: Essential oil exhibited appreciable antimicrobial activity against E. coli, S. aureus, B. subtilis, P. aeruginosa, K. pneumonia, S. typhii, Candida albicans, C. krusei, A. niger and Penicillum aotatum.
• Antioxidant: Tests using a DPPH assay showed the essential oils with higher activity than a-tocopherol. Results showed Dp with promising antioxidant activity as a free radical scavenger.
• Eugenol / Toxicity: When chewed, the juice from the leaves causes a painful edema of the oral mucous membrane, buccal ulcerations and tongue hypertrophy – severe enough to possibly cause glottis obstruction, respiratory compromise and death. Topical application of essential oil extracted from Caryophyllus aromaticus provides about 70% reduction of edema.

Ornamental cultivation.