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dumb cane

noun
1.
a West Indian foliage plant, Dieffenbachia seguine, of the arum family, having yellow-blotched leaves that cause temporary speechlessness when chewed.
Also called dumb plant, mother-in-law plant.
Origin
1690-1700
1690-1700
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Encyclopedia Article for dumb cane

any of about 30 species of herbaceous plants valued as indoor foliage for their ability to tolerate low light intensities. The name mother-in-law's tongue, sometimes used for these plants, is also applied to Sansevieria species. Dumb cane (especially D. seguine) gets its name from the temporary speechlessness that occurs after chewing a piece of the stem. Juices of the plant contain oxalates and other substances that irritate the mucous membranes and cause swelling and inflammation of the tongue and throat. Dumb cane is reported to have been given to slaves as a form of punishment.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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