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Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Arum lilies after the winter

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.”
- Georgia O’Keeffe

Wit varkoor (Afrikaans); intebe (Xhosa) ihlukwe (Zulu)
Family: Araceae (Arums, Anthurium, Caladium and Philodendron)


What could be more beautiful than a creamy white arum lily – whether in your garden, a pot, or the wild? Arum lilies (Zantedeschia) are native to southern Africa from South Africa north to Malawi and grow well in full sun near water, but prefer a semi-shaded environment when there’s no permanent water nearby.


The faintly scented flowers attract a multitude of crawling insects and bees, which pollinate the flowers in exchange for food, each one in its own way. The white crab spider, for instance, visits the flower to eat the insects. It does not spin webs, but makes good use of its paleness as an effective camouflage in the spathe.

Porcupines are crazy about the large rhizomes and will savagely destroy whole colonies of arum lilies. The good thing is that thanks to this brutal pruning, the plants regenerate fresher than ever with the most amazing flowers. If I had porcupines, it would be worth the massacre!

My Arums look like the porcupines have been at it, but it's only the chickens!

Zantedeschia is a genus of herbaceous flowering plants in the family Araceae, native to southern Africa from South Africa north to Malawi. The Zantedeschia species are poisonous due to the presence of calcium oxalate. All parts of the plant are toxic, and produce irritation and swelling of the mouth and throat, acute vomiting and diarrhoea. However leaves are sometimes cooked and eaten. Who would believe that these beauties carry a deadly secret?


In the South-West of Western Australia, Z. aethiopica was introduced for horticulture. It has become a widespread and conspicuous weed of watercourses, heath, and wetter pastures. The so-called white calla is derived from Z. aethiopica. All varieties with flowers with shades of yellow, orange, red, purple are mainly derived from Z. albomaculata, Z. pentlandii and Z. rehmanni.


Did you know that the striking arum lily “flower” is actually many tiny flowers arranged in a complex spiral pattern on the central column (spadix)? The tiny flowers are arranged in male and female zones on the spadix. The top 7 cm are male flowers and the lower 1.8 cm are female. If you look through a hand-lens you may see the stringy pollen emerging from the male flowers which consist largely of anthers. The female flowers have an ovary with a short stalk above it, which is the style (where the pollen is received). The spadix is surrounded by the white or coloured spathe. According to Marloth, the whiteness of the spathe is not caused by pigmentation, but is an optical effect produced by numerous airspaces beneath the epidermis.


The common arum is found from the Western Cape through the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and into Limpopo Province in South Africa. It is evergreen or deciduous depending on the habitat and rainfall regime. In the Western Cape it is dormant in summer and in the summer rainfall areas it is dormant in winter. It will remain evergreen in both areas if growing in marshy conditions which remain wet all year around.


Although called the arum lily, it is neither an arum (the genus Arum) nor a lily (genus Lilium). But it is associated with the lily as a symbol of purity and these elegant flowers have graced many bridal bouquets.


 Arum lilies in my garden done in watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm - Maree©

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