Phantastic Philodendrons

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Wolfsonian-Florida International University’s exhibit, “Philodendron, from Pan-Latin exotic to American Modern,” traces the ubiquitous plant from its 16th collection by Georg Marcgrave to its embroidered appliques on Erdem Moralioglu’s dress in a spring/summer 2015 fashion collection. It pulls into focus the history of botanical exploration in the tropics (in an essay by Dr. Mike Maunder found in the show’s catalog) to use of the shape by contemporary artists – which is really rather breath-taking in scope.


In 1865, Frederick Church painted a study for “Fig Tree and Wild Philodendron” in Jamaica.

In 1894, a royal waiting room in the Vienna Metropolitan Railway was designed by Otto Wagner to be used by the Emperor Franz Joseph. The room was “defined by a reddish octagonal rug from which radiating lines and undulating split-leaf philodendron vines and aerial roots lead to the secondary rooms.”

Throughout the 1950s, the philodendron became the houseplant that infiltrated every contemporary interior design. In 1959, Henri Matisse painted two women, one of whom was strumming a guitar, against wall on which grew split-leaf philodendron.

In 2006, Naomi Fisher’s untitled mostly red and pink composition depicts a woman amid palms and philodendrons.

Several of Dr. David Fairchild’s photos and herbarium sheets from the Garden’s herbarium are included in the show.

 For those of us in love with the Araceae family, it is a must-see. Then, take yourself to Juvia, the restaurant on Miami Beach with a living wall of plants – many of them aroids.

A living wall