Yard Oddities in Old Northeast: Golden Pothos

Golden pothos on a tree

Sometimes the most common plants can do amazing things. You’ve probably seen places where bright green grass grows in the thin cracks in between our Augusta Blocks, while a nearby lawn struggles to grow in rich irrigated soil. Oak tree saplings often find rain gutters to be a fine place to begin their life. Fruit trees are known to emerge where its ancestor was removed many years ago. 

This edition’s yard oddity is actually one of the most popular house plants in America. The golden pothos (and its sister, the heartleaf philodendron) are loved for how easy they are to care for. They are tolerant of light, shade, moisture, and periods of drought. In short, they’re hard to kill (although I’ve done it). 

If you have a neglected golden pothos it still can do something incredible, and the evidence is in yards all over the Old Northeast. Golden pothos plants, discarded or cast into yards for one last gasp at life can do things their indoor brethren can’t. Like certain fish and reptiles that will grow larger in larger tanks, the golden pothos will grow, spread, and climb. The leaves, which would normally fit in the palm of your hand, can grow to the size of hubcaps. They can develop fat air roots, the thickness of a garden hose, and they can slither towards the tops of tall oaks and up the sides of homes and fences. 

Golden pothos on a house
Golden pothos cruising up a chimney.

All of this glory comes with a couple of caveats. First, those interested in a Florida-friendly landscape will know that the golden pothos isn’t a native plant. It comes from Southeast Asia, Australia, and some Pacific Islands. But it’s not a scourge like Brazilian pepper or melaleuca. In Florida it is classified as a Category II invasive species meaning that it has spread in the wild but hasn’t done serious ecological damage. 

The other warning on the golden pothos is that it is poisonous to cats and dogs. When eaten, they can cause serious inflammation of the mouth, throat, and digestive system. While they might not be a delicious snack, curious cats and dogs have been known to develop big problems from munching on their leaves. 

Golden pothos may not be the right plant to cover your yard, but the big broad leaves and winding vines that can come from these humble house plants are something to marvel at. 

Got a funky tree or plant you want to see in the Northeast Journal. Reach out to jkilewrites@gmail.com.