Like caladium, anthurium are a tropical I never could get into. I have a penchant for freakish, alien plants, but there is something about their waxy, fake phalus-like appearance that bugs me. They just seem so Hollywood — the plastic surgery disasters of the plant world.

Last year’s trip to Dominica changed that. There, for the first time, I saw anthurium growing in their natural habitat. It turns out they live in the jungle, alongside streams where it is very humid and the soil is moist. In that environment they don’t look fake at all.

There, surrounded by a lush green backdrop, where everything is waxy and shiny, they blend right in and it seems perfectly normal to come upon a flower that looks like one of Madonna’s performance outfits, or that neon t-shirt I wore back in 1985.

I took all of these photos at Papillote Wilderness Retreat in Dominica. They have an amazing garden that has been very naturally integrated into the forest landscape. It was by far the best and most inspiring garden I saw on any of the three islands we visited. If you get a chance to visit Dominica, do not miss out and make sure you give yourself at least a full day to explore it. We only had a few hours and it wasn’t nearly enough time.


Don’t forget about the Holiday Drive for House of Hope in Dominica. We’ve met the original goal but the need is much greater than that. I am still giving out raffle tickets until December 18, 2010.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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8 thoughts on “Anthurium

  1. I love these photos of Anthuriums in their natural environment! I use them often in Ikebana, but I prefer the smaller, odd coloured ones, the thinner purple ones are quite beautiful.

  2. Wow – your photos really capture how lovely these are in their rightful homes. The colors remind me of seeing begonias growing in Guatemala… I have always loved begonias, but they became these spidery, otherworldly jewels when I happened upon them on a hike in the cloud forest. I couldn’t believe how exquisite they were.

  3. There’s no getting around it – they’re Penis Flowers. Still, Anthurium make great houseplants and come in many varieties. I’ve never seen them in the wild – thanks for sharing your photos.

    I have an Anthurium crystallinum in my kitchen (perfect low-light window). Its leaves are almost 2 feet tall. They’re fascinating to watch grow because they start out red and turn green and leathery as they mature.

  4. I’m so happy you came around with anthuriums. I can understand why you weren’t attracted to them initially.. but they really do make awesome houseplants, and with the right wall color and a mirror.. ohhhh it makes your room look like a piece of tropical heaven.

  5. I, too, just started playing around with anthuriums in my classroom this year. I like them because of the bright colors of the blooms and the nice contrast between bloom and leaf! And the kids always ask if if they are real! :)

  6. I love anthirium – they grow so well in the shade of my lychee tree. I just have the common red and the small purple – that white one with the red spatters is particularly pretty.

  7. Yes thats right they are a Penis flower. I didn’t believe it until I saw one, As crazy as it may seem its true.

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