Formerly Known as Philodendron: Thaumatophyllum

What happens when a Philodendron is no longer a Philodendron and why does that happen? Today I am going to be talking about plant reclassification and specifically how it affects a few popular plants you may know about or even own!

You might already know what a Philodendron selloum is, or the smaller version you often see in big box stores called "Hope Philodendron," and you may even own one. You might also know about Philodendron xanadu or own one of those as well! Did you know, though, that neither of these plants are considered Philodendrons anymore? It's true! Since 2018, these and a few other similar former-Philodendrons were reclassified into a new genus called Thaumatophyllum (a name which roughly translates to "Wonder Leaf").

But why?

I'll explain, and I will use the plant we commonly know as Philodendron selloum as an example.

Long ago, science recognized two plants: Philodendron selloum and Philodendron bipinnatifidum. It was later discovered that these are actually the same plant and the two were merged into one. Philodendron bipinnatifidum (its name means "double, feathery split-leaves) grows a tree-like trunk and aerial roots that grow towards the ground to anchor it as it grows. It sheds its lower leaves along the way, revealing its trunk covered in "scars" that almost look like eyes. Most of the ones kept as houseplants stay pretty compact unless they are very old. Growing outside in suitable climates like parts of Florida will give them their more treelike appearance.

So why is Philodendron bipinnatifidum no longer considered a Philodendron?

To put it very simply, it's because of its DNA. Philodendron bipinnatifidum, Philodendron xanadu, and a few others were already subdivided into their own group within Philodendron. This group was known as Meconostigma. In 2018, a team of scientists recognized that these plants were very different genetically from the Philodendrons they were lumped in with. Paired with the fact that they also grow trunks like trees and shed their lower leaves, the plants were then moved to their own new genus: Thaumatophyllum.

So now, the plant you may know as Philodendron selloum is most accurately called Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum and Philodendron xanadu is most correctly called Thaumatophyllum xanadu.

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