Dieffenbachia is a perennial herbaceous plant with straight stem, simple and alternate leaves containing white spots and flecks, making it attractive as indoor foliage. Species in this genus are popular as houseplants because of their tolerance of shade. The common name, "dumb cane" refers to the poisoning effect of raphides. It is also known as the "Mother-in-law" plant. Dieffenbachia was named by Heinrich Wilhelm Schott, the Director of the Botanical Gardens in Vienna, to honor his head gardener Joseph Dieffenbach (1796–1863).
With a minimum temperature of 5 °C (41 °F), dieffenbachia must be grown indoors in temperate areas. They need light, but filtered sunlight through a window is usually sufficient. They also need moderately moist soil, which should be regularly fertilized with a proprietary houseplant fertilizer. Leaves will periodically roll up and fall off to make way for new leaves. Yellowing of the leaves is generally a sign of problematic conditions, such as a nutrient deficiency in the soil. Dieffenbachia respond well to hot temperatures and dry climates.
Dieffenbachia wendlandii Schott - southern Mexico (Querétaro, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Chiapas) south to Panama
Dieffenbachia williamsii Croat - Bolivia
Dieffenbachia wurdackii Croat - Peru
In the Philippines, dumb cane plant is being studied; researchers have found that dumb cane plant contains active ingredients that cause antiangiogenic effect potential for the treatment of cancer. Antiangiogenesis is a process that inhibits the growth and development of new blood vessels in the body.
Antiangiogenesis controls the spread of tumour cells in the body by disabling the transport of nutrients toward the cancerous cells. Normally, tumour starts from a single cell and divides to make more cancer cells. The growth of malignant cells will depend on the availability of specific nutrients being transported by blood vessels.
Findings of the study claimed that dumb cane’s ability to prevent blood vessel growth and development can be possibly used in the formulation of anti-cancer drug to help prevent the spread of cancer cells in the human body.
The cells of the Dieffenbachia plant contain needle-shaped calcium oxalatecrystals called raphides. If a leaf is chewed, these crystals can cause a temporary burning sensation and erythema. In rare cases, edema of tissues exposed to the plant has 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 intense numbing, 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. In patients with exposure to toxic plants, 70% are children younger than 5 years.