|Image credit - Manfred Heyde|
The Arum lily is arguably once of the most beautiful of all flowering plants. It has been in cultivation in Europe since at least the 1660s and is one of the world's most iconic and widely known plants. Native to southern and east Africa in Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya and Madeira, the name of the genus was given as a tribute to Italian botanist Giovanni Zantedeschi (1773–1846) by the German botanist Kurt Sprengel (1766–1833). However the Afrikaans name for the Arum lily - 'Varkoor', is less than complimentary as it means 'pig's ear'! Despite this rather unfortunate pseudonym the Arum lily is used across the world as a symbol of purity in bridal and funeral flower arrangements.
|Image credit - Júlio Reis|
When planted in optimum conditions you can expect a fantastic display of flowers throughout the spring and summer.
The arum lily is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant. It grows naturally in marshy areas and is only deciduous when water becomes scarce. In its natural habitat it will often be found in or on the banks of streams and ponds. It will grows from 2–3 ft tall, with large clumps of broad, arrow shaped dark green leaves which can be up to 18 inches long.
|Image credit - Eric Hunt|
You can plant the Arum lily in any position it will grow best in moist, fertile soil or as a marginal plant in shallow water. The growing conditions will also determine size and flowering. Planting under shade is preferable if there is no boggy or wet position available, but be aware that this will reduce the number of flowers produced and will ultimately result in a smaller plant.
Zantedeschia species are poisonous due to the presence of calcium oxalate, and ingestion of the raw plant may cause a severe burning sensation and swelling of lips, tongue, and throat. In extreme cases stomach pain and diarrhoea may occur. However leaves are sometimes cooked and eaten, and the rhizomes are also believed to edible.
The arum lily has become an important symbol of Irish republicanism and nationalism since 1926, and is the national flower of the island nation of Saint Helena.
The Zantedeschia aethiopica cultivars 'Crowborough' and 'Green Goddess' have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's 'Award of Garden Merit' (AGM).
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