Prayer Plant Toxicity

Overview

The American Association of Poison Control Centers states that prayer plants are nontoxic to people. Many university botany departments also list the plant as nontoxic. The Animal Poison Control Center at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) lists the prayer plant as nontoxic to dogs and cats. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia points out that even nontoxic plants may present a risk for choking or stomach upset, particularly for young children.

History

Native to the dense forests of tropical Central and South America, the prayer plant is a member of the Marantaceae, or arrowroot, family of plants. It was named after an 18th century Venetian physician and botanist. It was also named for the characteristic folding of its leaves upright in the evening, as if in prayer. The striking red veins of the foliage also resemble the fingers of clasped hands, adding to the effect.

Antidote

Arrowroot, or arara root, was so named by colonists because the indigenous people of tropical America used the root of the plant as an antidote to poison arrows.

Food Plant

One arrowroot species, Maranta arundinacea, is valued as a food plant. This larger species grows from 2 to 6 feet tall in Central and South America. Their rhizomes yield an easily digested starch. Bakers include arrowroot in children's cookies and crackers, chefs include it in glazes and gravies and dairies add the ingredient to ice cream.

House Plant

Because they are native to the dense forests, prayer plants and their relatives are very tolerant of low-light, and therefore well-suited to the poor lighting conditions of houses and offices. Because of this and their stunning foliage, plant breeders have introduced many new and beautiful hybrids of this prized houseplant. Considered easy to grow, they thrive in bright, indirect sunlight and well-drained soil. Because of its tropical origins, the plant loves high humidity and to be kept moist, but not soggy. Indoor gardeners recommend using warm water, but to also keep the plant drier during winter dormancy. Daily misting is also recommended. The ideal temperature for the arrowroot plant is between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The prayer plant can be propagated by division in the springtime. If a piece of the plant breaks off, it can also be placed directly into the soil.

Varieties

Several groups of plants make up the Marantaceae family, which include Calathea, Ctenanthe, Stromanthe and the Marantas, which are the easiest to grow.

Keywords: prayer house plant, prayer plant poisonous, tropical food plant, arrowroot edible

About this Author

Michele Angel del Rio, meaning “angel of the river,” got her name for her coverage of the Rio Grande River as the Austin Bureau Chief for the "Rio Grande Guardian." She also served as programmer and hostess of the Austin Environmental Show on 91.7 KO-OP Radio, as well as hostess of the Women’s News Hour on cable access.

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