Dieffenbachia amoena (a.k.a. the Dumb Cane), is a common plant that is widely used for interior landscaping and also as a vibrant houseplant. It is a member of the Araceae plant family.
History Of The Dumb Cane
This plant is named the Dumb Cane because any sap from the plant that gets into a human mouth will make the tongue swell, and cause speechlessness.
The dumb cane plant was used by slave-owners to torture unruly slaves working in Caribbean sugar plantations.
When ingested, extract from the leaves will also attack the body’s sex cells. In 1941, Heinrich Himmler, then the head of the SS in Nazi Germany, considered using the Dumb Cane to sterilize war prisoners. Fortunately, his plan failed, due to the difficulty of shipping enough plants over from their natural home in Latin America.
The Danger Of Dumb Cane
The plant is able to grow up to 6 foot tall. The leaves are generally large and ovate. The leaves themselves have irregular areas of splotches with lighter green, yellow or even cream coloring.
All parts of the plant are covered with micro needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals and a protein found in the plant called asparagine. When some unfortunate animal or children should chew on the leaves, they may end up with a painful and swollen mouth. In some cases, the swelling can be so bad that it causes the victim to go dumb.
The sap from the plant is also toxic and may cause very unpleasant pain when it comes into contact with your skin. When swallowed, it can burn the insides. Be careful not to get it in your eyes!
Native Amazonian people use the juice from this plant to as poison in their arrows.
Can This Plant Really Kill?
Death from ingesting this plant is likely, but it is rare. Although there were cases where chewing the leaf had led to severe outcomes, these cases were rare as well.
Despite its toxicity, the dieffenbachia plant is a NASA-approved plant for cleaning toxins from the air. It has been proven that colds and viruses are less where there are houseplants. This plant removes not only formaldehyde, fumes from carpet and some furniture, but also other pollutants such as xylene and toulene.
Despite the plant toxicity from ingestion, it is a beautiful houseplant and with proper handling and care, you can actually benefit from it. Although there are posts on social media that go around saying that this plant may kill children instantly, we think kids or pets are smart enough not to ingest plants that are not meant for eating. Still, to err on the side, let’s keep the plant away from them.
The Dumb Cane is able to grow under low light conditions, it can also tolerate higher light conditions, when provided with sufficient moisture. The ideal spot for a Dumb Cane would be a sheltered location and away from direct sunlight.