Araceae, The Aroid Family
Plants in the Araceae family, colloquially known as aroids, are usually pretty easy to identify, especially if you can see "one" of their “flowers” (actually an inflorescence).
Monstera deliciosa is an example of an aroid with an edible fruit, however it’s important to note that the fruit must fully ripen which can take up to a year, because under-ripe monstera fruits can be toxic.
For the most part though, aroids should not be eaten because this family has a tendency to be poisonous for humans and pets. In fact, calla lilies and other members are often on lists of plants to avoid if you have pets that like to munch on your house plants.
They are monocots but their leaves don’t have parallel leaf venation; instead their leaf veins branch, usually with a main midvein as is more common with dicotyledonous plants.
Their distinctive "flowers" are actually compound flowers, meaning that what looks like a single flower is in fact an inflorescence made up of many tiny flowers, sheathed in a single petal-like bract called a "spathe".
Species may grow as a vine or may have an "acaulescent" habit, meaning that there is no discernable stem. Acaulescent plants do in fact have stems, but they are hidden beneath the leaves due to short internodes.
Flowers, Fruits & Leaves
Spathe: A modified leaf (bract) called a spathe is wrapped around the inflorescence
Spadix: The inflorescence is a small spike made of tiny flowers, called a spadix.
Reproductive: Dioecious with male and female flowers within the same spadix.
Fruit & Seeds: Many fruits with seeds develop along the spadix.
Leaves: Unlike most monocots, leaf venation is branching. Generally they are alternate, petiolate, sheathed and simple, though sometimes they are compound or unsheathed.
Philodendron spp. and Monstera spp. are both vines in the aroid family, but contrary to popular belief they are in different genera and aren’t much more closely related to each other than many of their other aroid relatives.
The peace lily Spathiphyllum wallisii is an example of an aroid so-called "lily" which is not closely related to true lily family (Liliaceae) members at all. This is an example of an acaulescent plant in the family.
Pothos Epipremnum aureum is one of the most celebrated aroids in the world, because of its durability as an indoor plant. The types we grow indoors look quite different to wild varieties that climb trees and grow leaves as large as a monstera.
There is one plant in the genus Calla which has a wide range of varieties called C. palustris.
Aroids have a definite personality and over time you’ll be able to spot them even without their flower, even though their leaves and stems do come in a range of shapes and sizes.
If you haven’t already read my articles on plant identification and scientific names, I recommend reading those to get a broader picture of the topic. Alternatively, you can browse some of my other plant families, subfamilies and genera below.