Dragon’s tail

posted in: Plants | 8

Most of us are familiar with the money plant (Epipremnum aureum). This creeping plant with smallish leaves is a favourite indoor plant, usually placed in a container of water. However, when planted in the ground, the leaves can grow large indeed. The plant seldom flowers, if at all.

The dragon’s tail (Raphidophora korthalsii) is a close relative. It became popular some ten or more years ago when the local Chinese claimed that the leaves, boiled in water with rock sugar, made a healthy drink. There were many who claimed that the drink could cure various ailments. Suddenly each leaf cost a few dollars apiece and people began planting them. The plant grows rapidly, creeping along the trunk of trees or even walls. Even today, there are those who use the leaves to cure certain skin allergies.

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I have a plant growing along the trunk of my Alexandra palm (Archontophoenix alexandrae). It was so unruly that I tried to kill it off. I lopped off portions of the stem from the palm trunk and peeled them off. But I was not able to remove the upper part of the stem. It kept growing, sending down aerial roots that entered the ground to obtain water and nutrients. Finally the plant flowered. And flowered regularly.

One day I noticed a few Black-naped Orioles (Oriolus chinensis) feeding on the fruits (above). And apparently enjoying them. These birds are usually very shy, flying off whenever they noticed my presence. But not this time. They remained eating until they had their fill, allowing me to photograph them.

YC Wee
Singapore
March 2007

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8 Responses

  1. I see, so Raphidophora korthalsii is that climbing aroid that occurs quite commonly on wayside trees with a fleeting resemblance to Monstera deliciosa? Is it native to these parts? I notice quite a few aroids (e.g. Aglaonema and those Xanthophyllum (?) found in the Botanic Gardens jungle have bright red fruit. Might this be for the purposes of bird dispersal?

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  2. Yes, it is related to Monstera deliciosa or fruit salad plant, also known as Swiss cheese plant. As the specific name implies, the fruit is edible and delicious. I have seen it being sold in Australia. Dragon’s tail is native but I am not sure whether it is edible. I am usually a coward as far as tasting unknown plants and fruits. I am sure birds help in the dispersal of araceous seeds.

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  3. Isnt this araceous Dragon’s Tail also called Epipremnum pinnatum ?

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  4. Yes.

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