Pothos macrocephalus Scort. ex Hook. f. (Araceae)
by Ahmad Syahir Zaini & Mrs. Syahida Emiza Suhaimi
The white spathe and mid-yellow spadix of the inflorescence. (Copyright © Rafidah Abdul Rahman)

Pothos, with 70 species, belongs to the aroid family (Araceae). It occurs from Madagascar through to India, the subtropical eastern Himalayas, throughout subtropical and tropical Asia into western Oceania and tropical eastern Australia. In Peninsular Malaysia, P. macrocephalus is one of nine species. Its genus name, Pothos, is derived from a Sinhalese vernacular name, potha, meaning a climbing plant, and its epithet from the Latin word macrocephalus meaning having a long or large (macro) head (cephala), referring to the large, mid-yellow, globose inflorescence with flowers densely pressed together to form a head.

Pothos macrocephalus is distributed in Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra. In Peninsular Malaysia, it has been found in many areas such as Kaki Bukit (Perlis), Bukit Palong (Kedah), Gua Puteri (Perak), Gua Musang (Kelantan), Ulu Kajang (Terengganu), Cameron Highlands (Pahang) and Sg. Kayu (Johor). These records prove that the species is not rare as it is widespread in many areas in Peninsular Malaysia and likely to be categorized as Least Concern (LC), but its conservation status has yet to be determined. It grows on rocks along rivers or streams as well as in freshwater swamps and is frequently found on limestone or granite. In general, it can be found at altitudes of between 30 and 1,450 m (Boyce & Hay, 2002).

Pothos macrocephalus can be recognized and distinguished from other species by its large yellow and white globose inflorescence, long petiole and small leaf blade (Boyce & Hay, 2002). It is a root-climbing liana where its roots adhere to host plants for support. The stem is up to 15 cm long and 8 – 12 mm in diameter. The petioles are oblong to obovate-oblong. The leaf is bright to mid-green adaxially but paler abaxially, ovate to elliptic or lanceolate, with a decurrent base and truncate, auriculate or rounded apex. The inflorescence is solitary, borne in the axils of the middle leaves. The peduncle of the inflorescence is dull orange-yellow. The spathe is ovate, flat to convex, reflexed and white in colour while the spadix is stipitate. The stipe is erect, straight and pale green. The flowers are bisexual, minute, 1 – 2 mm in diameter with six free tepals. The male part of this flower has six stamens. This species produces one to five club-shaped to ovoid or ellipsoid, 1 – 1.75 by 1 – 1.4 cm berries on a stalk, which are deep green, turning scarlet when ripe. In sub-mature fruits, the epidermis of the upper part is roughened, becoming more or less smooth when ripe.

The leaf and inflorescence. (Copyright © Rafidah Abdul Rahman)


  1. Boyce, P.C. & Hay, A. (2002). A taxonomic revision of Araceae tribe Potheae (Pothos, Pothoidium and Pedicellarum) for Malesia, Australia and the tropical Western Pacific. Telopea 9 (3): pp. 449-571
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