What is Syngonium?

Bethney Foster

Syngonium is the genus that includes 36 species of flowering, vine-like plants native to the rainforests of Central and South America. In the wild, Syngonium species can reach heights of more than 60 feet (18.3 m) as they climb nearby trees. Other Syngonium species are kept as houseplants and include species such as the one commonly referred to as the arrowhead plant. These plants are part of the scientific family Araceae.

The syngonium genus is native to the rain forests of Central and South America.
The syngonium genus is native to the rain forests of Central and South America.

From seeds germinating in the soil, Syngonium species form a rosette that puts forth a single branch. This branch then grows and climbs the trunk of a nearby tree. The vine then flowers and bears fruit high in the tree, with its leaf shape changing as the plant matures. The plant then produces branches that return to the ground, and these new branches climb neighboring trees.

Oxalate crystals on all parts of Syngonium plants will cause the throat and tongue to swell if ingested.
Oxalate crystals on all parts of Syngonium plants will cause the throat and tongue to swell if ingested.

Flowers on Syngonium species are made up of a green, yellow or white sheath around a spike of small blooms. From within the sheath — also known as a spathe — berries form later in the season. In the wild, these berries fall to the forest floor. Within the berries are the plant’s seeds, which are dispersed by animals, such as wasps, beetles, bats and monkeys.

The leaves can grow very large, with the popular philodendron houseplant having leaves of up to 3 feet (91.4 cm) long when cultivated. All parts of Syngonium plants contain oxalate crystals. If ingested by humans, these crystals can cause the lips, tongue and throat to swell.

Many species of the Syngonium genus are threatened by habitat loss. These include Syngonium dodsonianum, Syngonium harlingianum and Syngonium sparreorum. Other species, however, are common, and the arrowhead plant or goosefoot plant — Syngonium podophyllum — is listed as an invasive species in Florida. The arrowhead plant is found in homes and cultivated as part of landscaping in some areas of the world. Commonly grown in a hanging basket, the arrowhead plant vines and its leaves change shape as it matures.

Syngonium macrophyllum, commonly called the Philodendron, is another popular houseplant. The Philodendron has leaves that are oval and turn into oblong segments as the plant matures. Growing 6 to 10 feet (1.8 to 3 m) in height, the Philodendron puts forth cream and green-sheathed flowers.

When grown indoors, Syngonium plants need bright, filtered light. They shouldn’t have direct sunlight because they will burn easily. Temperatures should never drop below 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12.8 degrees Celsius).

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