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Dieffenbachia is a genus of tropical plant in the Family Araceae noted for their patterned leaves. The name commemorates Ernst Dieffenbachia, a German physician. Members of this genus are popular as houseplants because of their tolerance for shade. The common name is dumb cane due to its poisoning effects on the throat due to rap-hides.


       Biting into the leaf causes immediate intense, painful burning in the mouth. This houseplant is one of the most frequently involved in injury to young children. All parts are poisonous, causing intense burning, irritation, and immobility of the tongue, mouth and throat.

       Swelling can be severe enough to block breathing leading to death. Dieffenbachia is considered one of the deadliest plants on the earth.

       Dieffenbachia plants can grow outdoors in tropical climates, but specimens kept as houseplants must be kept indoors during most of the year outside the tropics.

       Temperatures below about 5 Celsius can kill the plant. The plant needs light but filtered sunlight through a window is usually sufficient. When the plant is brought home from nursery, it will likely need re potting. The plant needs moderately moist soil. Dieffenbachia responds well to hot temperatures and dry climates.

     The cells of the Dieffenbachia plant contain needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals called rap-hides. If a leaf is chewed, these crystals cab cause a temporary burning sensation and erythema. In rare cases, edema of tissues exposed to the plant have been reported.

     Mastication and ingestion generally result in only mild symptoms. With both children and pets, contact with dieffenbachia (typically from chewing) can cause a host of unpleasant symptoms, including oral irritation, excessive drooling and localized swelling.


     However, these effects are rarely life-threatening. In most cases, symptoms are mild, and can be successfully treated with analgesic agents, antihistamines, or medical charcoal. Gastric evacuation or lavage is seldom indicated.

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