What is an aroid?

By Deni Bown
True Anthurium andraeanum Linden ex André. Its many cultivars and hybrids are some of the most ubiquitous houseplants, and true aroids. Photo by David Scherberich.

Aroids are plants belonging to the Arum family, Araceae. There are over 140 genera and around 3660 described species. They include the smallest flowering plants in the world – the duckweeds (Lemnaceae) – and some of the largest, namely the Titan Arum, Amorphophallus titanum. There has been a huge growth of interest in the family since 2000, since when several new genera and many new species have been described, with more than 3000 awaiting description or discovery according to Peter Boyce & Tom Croat’s “Überlist of Araceae”.

Foliage in aroids is immensely varied. There is every known leaf shape plus the rare feature known as fenestration in which natural holes occur – the Swiss cheese plant, Monstera deliciosa, being grown worldwide for its novel appearance. To add to this diversity, basic shapes may be divided, sub-divided and ornamented. In addition, aroid leaves vary greatly in colour and texture, and are often also patterned and variegated.

Aroids occur in all parts of the world except polar regions but are most abundant in the tropics. Adapting to extremely varied habitats, they are diverse in ecology and life forms, from climbers, epiphytes, and tree-like plants to floating aquatics and seasonally dormant species that produce rhizomes or corms. Wherever you live and whatever growing conditions you have, there are plenty of aroids to choose from and enjoy!

The fenestrated leaf of Dracontioides desciscens (Schott) Engl. at Jardin Botanique Jean-Marie Pelt in France. It is one of the few non-Monsteroid aroids that makes fenestrations. Photo by Nils Weessies.
A heavily fenestrated new Monstera species. Photo by Nils Weessies.
Arophyton crassifolium (Buchet) Bogner is known for its glaucous foliage, a trait several aroids have. Photo by Nils Weessies.
Anthurium besseae Croat is an attractive species with a velvety surface and undulated (wavy) margins. Photo by Nils Weessies.

Warning! All parts of an aroid plant contain toxic irritant substances so handle carefully, especially when maintaining or propagating plants. Some species produce tubers, leaves, and fruits that are edible when properly prepared.