Dieffenbachia seguine (Jacq.) Schott

Last updated: 5 April 2016

Scientific Name

Dieffenbachia seguine (Jacq.) Schott


Arum crudele Salisb. Arum regnium Rodschied ex G.F.Mey. Arum seguine Jacq. Arum seguinum L. Caladium maculatum Lodd. Caladium seguine (Jacq.) Vent. Dieffenbachia barraquiniana Verschaff. & Lem. Dieffenbachia brasiliensis H.J.Veitch Dieffenbachia cognata Schott Dieffenbachia consobrina Schott Dieffenbachia conspurcata Schott Dieffenbachia decora Engl. [Invalid] Dieffenbachia gigantea Verschaff. Dieffenbachia gollmeriana Schott Dieffenbachia grandis Engl. Dieffenbachia illustris Voss Dieffenbachia irrorata Schott Dieffenbachia jenmanii Veitch ex Regel Dieffenbachia lineata K.Koch & C.D.Bouché Dieffenbachia lingulata Schott Dieffenbachia liturata Schott Dieffenbachia maculata (Lodd.) Sweet Dieffenbachia magnifica Linden & Rodigas Dieffenbachia mirabilis Verschaff. ex Engl. Dieffenbachia neglecta Schott, Dieffenbachia nobilis Verschaff. ex Engl. Dieffenbachia picta Schott Dieffenbachia picturata L.Linden & Rodigas, Dieffenbachia plumieri Schott, Dieffenbachia poeppigii Schott, Dieffenbachia robusta K.Koch, Dieffenbachia variegata Engl. Dieffenbachia ventenatiana Schott Dieffenbachia verschaffeltii Engl, Dieffenbachia wallisii Linden Seguinum maculatum (Lodd.) Raf. Spathiphyllum pictum W.Bull. [1]

Vernacular Name

English Dumbcane, mother-in-law plant [2], dumbplant [3], mother in law’s tongue plant [4]
German Giftiger aron [4], schweigrohrwurzel [5]
Brazil Aninga para, aninga uba, Comigo ninguem pode [5]
Costa rica Comida de culebra [4]
Honduras Hoja de puerco [4]
Spain Cana muda, aro seguino, pataquina, oto de lagarto [5]
Portugal Cana de imbe [5].

Geographical Distributions

Dieffenbachia seguine is a native of South America but is not distributed throughout the world and very popular ornamental indoor plant seen houses and public places. [6]

Botanical Description

D. seguine is a member of the Araceae family. It is an erect herbaceous plant which can reach 1–5 m high. The lower stem shows conspicuous horizontal leaf scars. The leaf petiole clasps the stem. The leaf blade is entire, oblong and pointed with prominent midrib and secondary veins. The leaf measures 35 cm long and has various markings of irregular white spots or blotches. [2][6]


No documentation

Chemical Constituent

D. seguine has been reported to contain pyrimidine-5-carboxylic acid, 4-(1,3-dimethyl-1H-pyrazol-4-yl)-6-methyl-2- thioxo-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-methyl ester (5.814%), 5-methyl-2-phenylindolizine (2.957%), 1- (3-methylbutyl)-4-(4,4,5,5-tetramethyl-1,3,2-dioxaborolan-2-yl)-1H-Pyrazole (2.764%),
Dichotine, 19-hydroxy-11methoxytriacetate methylpiperazin-1-yl)benzo[1,2,5]diazol-1-oxide methoxycarbonyl-1H-2-benzopyran-3-one ethanediylbis[diphenylphosphine]-p-p']hydro[(1,2,3,4,5-β)-1-methyl-2,4-cyclopentadien-1- yl] Iron (2.067%) and 9,10-dihyro-9,10,11-trimethyl-9,10-methano anthracen-11-ol (1.011%). [5]

Plant Part Used

Ornamental [2][6][7][7]

Traditional Use

There a few used for dumbcane in west India. The extract leaves are used for rheumatism. The roots are sliced and boil with wine to soak the feet for treating late and old gouts. [8]

Preclinical Data


Antimicrobial activity

D. seguine have been reported to have antimicrobial activity against E. coli, S. aureus, B. subtilis, P. aeruginosa, K. pneumonia, S. typhii, Candida albicans, C. krusei, A. niger and Penicillum aotatum. [5]

Antioxidant activity

Tests using a DPPH assay showed that D. seguine have higher activity than α-tocopherol. Results showed Dp with promising antioxidant activity as a free radical scavenger. [5]

Antiproliferative activity

Study evaluated alcoholic extracts of D. seguine showed antiproliferative activity against human colon cancer cell line (Ca-Co-2). While roots of P. africanum and leaves of P macrocarpus and stem of C. debilis showed strong antiproliferative activity, only the leaf extract of D. seguine exhibited weak antiproliferative activity with 50% inhibition concentration (IC50) higher than 50 µg/mL. [5]

Amylase Inhibitors activity

Study of leaves, petoles, and stems of D. seguine have been reported to have amylase inhibitor activity, highest for the mid-section of stems; water was the best extractant. The inhibitor is of non-competitive type and active against human salivary amylase, porcine pancreatic α-amylase, Bacillus subtilis α-amylase and sweet potato ß-amylase. [5]


Study evaluated the ability of dumb cane stem extract in killing black rats. (Black rats are famous for its role in spreading the dreaded bubonic plague in the Middle Ages). Results showed rodenticide activity. The commercial rodenticide Raccumin took earlier effect compared to dumb cane stem extract.[5]



Toxicity results from brine shrimp lethality test showed a higher level of toxicity in the leaf than the stem essential oils. [5]

Clinical Data      

Clinical findings

No documentation

Adverse effects

When chewed, the juice from the leaves causes a painful edema of the oral mucous membrane, buccal ulcerations and tongue hypertrophy which are severe enough to possibly cause glottis obstruction, respiratory compromise and death. [5]


No documentation

Poisonous Management

Toxic parts

Whole plant [2][6][7]


Calcium oxalate (raphides) and a proteolytic enzyme called dumbcain. The sharp raphides are fired from special cells upon being subjected to mechanical pressure such as chewing. They sequentially fire their entire contents when activated. The proteolytic enzyme, dumbcain, on the other hand produces itching, swelling and pain when introduced into the victim’s tissue by the raphides. The raphides also injures the mast cells, releasing large amounts of histamines into the injured tissue. [2] [6][7][7]

Risk management

This plant should not be planted in homes and public areas where children could be exposed to them. [2][7]

Poisonous clinical findings

Skin contact – Coming in contact with the crushed stems, leaves or juice will produce itching, burning and local inflammation of the skin. [2][6][7]

Ingestion – Upon chewing, it causes rapid development of profuse salivation, burning pain, redness and swelling of the tongue and throat. There is loss of ability to speak due to inflammation of the larynx may occur and last for days. When the inflammation of the mouth and throat is severe it can pose a danger to the extent of fatal choking. Symptoms usually subside within a week, but the lesion may take longer to heal. [2][6][7]

Eye – Juice entering the eye causes intense pain, photophobia, swelling of the eyelids and corneal abrasions. This is caused by the calcium oxalate crystals. Free flowing sap without needles usually produces keratoconjunctivitis. The ophthalmic symptoms will fully recover within 3 to 4 weeks. However, in severe cases corneal opacity may persist indefinitely. [2][6][7][7]


Skin lesions – Immediate wash with soap and water sometime suffice to ally the itching and pain. Applying soothing creams e.g. calamine or a demulcent could provide some relieve to the itching following washing of the affected area. Antihistamines can provide relief, but does not alter the course of recovery. [6][7]

Ingestion – Immediately wash the mouth and provide cool beverages and demulcents (if available) to provide temporary relief. It has been reported that immediate application of lime juice could help dissolve the calcium oxalate needles. In severe cases, Diphenhydramine or any other antihistamine can help reduce the swelling. Analgesics could be given if the pain is severe. In extreme conditions tracheostomy may be needed. [6][7]

Line drawing

No documentation


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1 Dieffenbachia seguine (Jacq.) Schott. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated on 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 June 8] Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-61779
  2. Nelson LS, Shih RD, Balick MJ. Handbook of poisonous and injurious plants. 2nd ed. New York: Springer, 2007; p. 149
  3. Donald GB. Medical toxicology of natural substances: Foods, fungi, medicinal herbs, plants, and venomous Animals. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons; 2012.
  4. Spoerke DG, Smolinske SC. Toxicity of houseplants. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 1990; p. 119.
  5. Philippine Medicinal Plants. Dieffenbachia seguine (Jacq.) Schott. [homepage on the Internet]. No date [updated 2015 Dec; cited 2016 July 14]. Available from: http://www.stuartxchange.com/Dieffenbachia.html
  6. Fuller TC, McClintock E. Poisonous plants of California. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1986; p. 273–274
  7. Nellis DW. Poisonous plants and animals of Florida and the Caribbean. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, 1997; p. 147–149.
  8. Williams C. Medicinal plants in Australia. Plants, potions and poisons. Volume 3. Sydney: Rosenberg Publishing, 2012; p.190.