Amydrium medium is one of those under appreciated plants that most people have no idea exist. It is in the Aroid family and is in the group known as Monsteroids. These Monsteroids are some of the most unusual foliage plant on the planet. Many new collectors know the Monstera species fairly well but the odd relatives are unknown to may people.
I remember the first time seeing Amydrium medium. It was being grown by Mr. Merkle who was around 90 years old at the time. I was new to aroids and he was one of my go to sources for new and strange plants. He had been growing plants longer than most collectors had been alive and he had an impressive collection. I remember my eye being drawn to this odd plant and thinking right off that it was a strange Monstera species. Mr. Merkle corrected me and told me what he knew of the Amydrium group. Although very similar to Monstera plants, Amydriums are native to tropical Asia (Old World Tropical) while all Monstera plants are native to South America (New World Tropical). Amydrium medium has large cordate (heart-shaped) foliage with fenestration’s (holes) and lobed (cuts). One of the main features that I commonly look for when identifying Amydrium medium is the venation on the lea, which gives it an almost reptilian skin look.
So after years of growing Amydrium medium in the greenhouse I was finally able to see it in it’s natural habitat. In 2014, I took a take a trip to Borneo. On our trip we were able to visit many different mountains and jungles and it was the first time I was able to find Amydrium medium growing wild. The first few plants I found looked to be the same clone I had been growing for years. I was hoping to find another unique clone on my trip.
The jungle in this area was very unique with sandy swampy soil. The plant life was amazing and over whelming tapestry of green foliage. It took a good eye to spot interesting plants further in the distance. My eyes were scanning for any aroids and it did not take long to find something unique in this jungle.
This was one of the first Amydriums we found. I first thought it was exactly like the ones I have been growing but after comparing the photos this clone seemed to have more straight cuts. I was soon finding many variations and new clones.
As we ventured deeper into the jungle, I was extremely excited to find this odd tri-lobed clone. It looked to be an odd stable clone that would produce leaves with distinct cuts producing a tri-partated leaf.
I started to find a few of these highly pinnate clones with very segmented foliage. I felt like every 20 to 40 feet I could find a different clone that was unique compared to the others.
On our way back to the truck we headed down a steep hill, I was no longer finding Amydriums and that the colony of different clones were all in this isolated area. Then as I made my way down the path I found probably the most amazing Amydrium medium clone of them all. This unusual glaucous (silver) clone was growing in the leaf litter on the side of this hill. I had not seen one for almost an hour then this amazing plant was just surviving on a poor muddy slop on the side of the mountain.
This Amydrium medium (glaucous) clone was the prize of the day. Today it can be found all over and is becoming very popular in collections. I am extremely proud to say I found it and am glad to see it so popular among collectors now. When we made it back to the lower area of the mountain, I had found another colony that was close to where we had started but I had some how missed. As with the other clones, they seemed to all be unique. I thought I would find all similar clones and possibly a few unique forms. I had no idea it was going to be a treasure trove of completely new forms most of which I have still not see anywhere else.
I was finding two types of similar clones in this area. The first clone looked like the one I had always known. The second clone was a highly pinnate or cut leaf form. Some of these were very symmetrical while others were oddly lopsided.
Out of all the clones I ran across that day this clone looked to be the most delicate and thin. It is amazing to think this plant was still considered the same as the one I had always grown. There foliage structure ranges from one extreme to the next and makes them look like completely different plants.
All the clones I found looked to be growing well but most were not grown to full mature size. Most of the mature plants had lost all of the juvenile foliage and were high into the trees.
Amydrium medium with these segmented foliage were hard to pick out from the ferns. I was able to pick them out easily but from a distance I had confused them as being an odd fern.
This clone was interesting to find, I think it is the juvenile foliage of the segment leaf type morphing as it climbs. In the top left you can see a more split leaf mature form while the younger leaves still have fewer lobes.
This is the largest Amydrium medium leaf I had ever seen in person. This was a top cutting off a mature plant and the foliage was around 2 feet wide and 3 feet long.
I had not been able to flower my plants back at home in the greenhouse and it was amazing to seem them flower in the wild. The flowers look so similar to Monstera adansonii (friedrichsthalii) that I doubt I would be able to tell them apart off hand. It shows how closely related Amydriums are to Monsteras.
By the time we were finished with our hike for the day I had found 10 unique clones of Amydrium medium growing in that area. I am sure with more time and exploring more could be discovered. It was one of the funniest times I had in the jungle. I felt as though I was seeing these new clones before anyone else. These unique clones seemed to be off everyone’s radar. Maybe I am just and over eccentric plant collector but I found every new clone to be an amazing new discovery.
Love reading posts like this. Please do more
I am amazed to find someone else who remembers the Merkles and their wonderful orchids and foliage plants. So sad their business did not have a person to carry it forward. Until I moved a few years ago I still had a few of their glorious catalogs.
I’m sorry that I can’t grow such things as these anymore (I live in a senior living complex), but good for you in bringing these plants out for sale
I really enjoyed meeting people like Mr. Merkle. I have always looked up to the older growers and probably pestered them a lot, as I was pretty young when I first meet many of them. I looked up to them highly and still I do. I was very obsessed with collecting all of these rare plants back then as I am still now. But now I wish I would have just set down and talked with many of these collectors to hear more of their amazing stories. Merkle told me of when him and his brother opened their first plant shop. Before Florida was tame and before air conditioning. That the land the nursery was on become so expensive they build condos on either side of him. He finally sold his place probably for a few thousand times more than what he gave. I have never owned one of his catalogues but I hope to find one one day. I treasure these old plant list. Many of them have lost information which I can no longer find. Glad you have enjoyed my stories. I hope to add more soon. Thanks. Brian
Hi Brian. I was so pleased to see that first image of Amydrium above. In the late 90’s, I journeyed to Borneo. I brought back a tiny clipping of a plant with an entire, unsplit or holed leaf. I could tell it was an aroid. As it grew, it turned into the amazing leaf you showed. At least, I think it is. I’ve never been able to identify. Can I send you a picture for your opinion identifying it?
I am a new subscriber. I have a budding botany hobby and I’m busy collecting houseplants. I found your article fascinating. Thank you!
Thank you for the lovely tour. A friend gave me an amydrium runner and it just put out a leaf so I was looking for information about its natural habitat. This was a goldmine of info! Thank you so much, and I hope you’re doing well.
A friend of mine gifted me with a plant that looks like a momstera and she didn’t know the name of the plant but she knows i adore monstera.. so after googling the plant, here i am…
Thank you. Glad to have read your story and learning more about one of my favorite things in the world.