Q. Since Chondrodendron tomentosum is dioecious, does anyone know, out of curiosity, is the one at the NYBG male or female?

Since Chondrodendron tomentosum is dioecious, does anyone know, out of curiosity, is the one at the NYBG male or female? How would you tell?Also if d-tubocurarine isn't active when eaten (unless you eat a very large amount or have cuts), what evolutionary advantage would the plant have of making it in the first place? Would animals still eat enough of it to have an effect or cut themselves on the bark while eating it, is it simply a just bitter molecule to deter animals that just happens to also be a neuromuscular blocker, or would it be a waste product of the plant? I know there's probably not a definitive answer but I'm curious about someone else's view. Curare is my favorite poison/medicine of all time, I'm highly interested in it, and I want to learn as much as I possibly can. I'll be visiting at some point at the end of July or beginning of August because it has been my dream to see my favorite plant in person :) Thank you very much for taking the time to read these questions and for providing the world with a wonderful learning opportunity through the garden.


Hi Natalie,

Regarding your first question, I have conferred with my colleauges in the Conservatory, and the plant hasn't flowered in the 6 years we have had it.  We grow the plant to educate, but due to space restraints, prune the vine so often that it is never given the opportunity to flower. The flowers are not showy, so we don’t take the precautions we would with other plants to ensure flowering occurs.

Regarding your second question, it's almost impossible to say for sure why a plant has developed a certain defense.  It's possible that a plant had a mutation to make increased amounts of d-tubocurarine, and over time animals learned to avoid the plant because of the toxin.  If you read scientific literature related to d-tubocurarine, you may come accross some better theories!  Unfortunately, we don't have a medical focus at this library, so I don't have access to that literature.  You might try reaching out to the New York Academy of Medicine.

I hope that you enjoy your visit in July!  Thanks for your question.




  • Last Updated Jul 19, 2018
  • Views 18
  • Answered By Esther Jackson

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