Arum Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica)

Arum Lily

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Conservation status
Least Concern
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Unranked: Angiosperms
Unranked: Monocots
Order: Alismatales
Family: Araceae
Subfamily: Aroideae
Tribe: Zantedeschieae
Genus: Zantedeschia
Species: Z. aethiopica
Binomial name
Zantedeschia aethiopica
(L.) Spreng, 1826
Multinational names
Afrikaans: Varklelie
Xhosa: Intebe
Zulu: iHlukwe

Identification. The Arum Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) ranges from 60 – 100 cm in height. Its arrow shaped leaves are plain green. It is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant. The inflorescences are large, produced in spring, summer and autumn, with a pure white spathe up to 25 cm and a yellow spadix up to 9 cm long. The spathe turns green after flowering and covers the ripening berries. It rots away when these are ripe and the succulent yellow berries attract birds, which are responsible for seed dispersal.

Habitat. The Arum Lily prefers streams and ponds and their banks. Where temperatures and rainfall are adequate it is evergreen and where there is a dry season, deciduous.

Cultivating. The Arum Lily may be used as a marginal plant along streams, or on the edge of a pond. Plant in partial shade if there is no permanent water. It may be cultivated either by seed or division. Seed should be sown in spring. The seeds can be sown in seedling mix and covered lightly. The fleshy rootstock can be divided when the plant is dormant, it should be re-planted about 5 cm deep. It may also be propagated by division where the plant is not dormant, use a sharp spade to cut out a section for replanting. Soil should have pH of 5.5 to 7.5.

The Arum Lily prefers full sun but should do well in partial shade. If kept moist all year, it will be evergreen. During dry periods it goes dormant and your blooming season will be considerably shortened. While growing, make sure the arum lily is fed and watered regularly. Once it stops blooming, stop the water and fertilizing and the plant will enter its dormant phase. The Arum Lily does not tolerate frost. If you live in a zone that has freezing winters, dig up the rhizomes in the fall. Dry them in a sunny spot and then store them in moist peat moss or sawdust. Keep them somewhere where they won’t freeze.

General. The Arum Lily falls within the fynbos biome. It has various English common names including Lily of the Nile, Calla Lily and Easter Lily. In Afrikaans it is also known as the Varkoor, which means pig’s ear.

South African Distribution. The Arum Lily is widespread through southern Africa. It is found from the Western Cape through the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and into the Northern Province. It is absent from the dry far northern South Africa.

Port Elizabeth Area. The Arum Lily may be found in Baakens Valley, Shark River (also known as Happy Valley) and at the dams and pans of water in the Greenbushes area.

Conservation Status – LC (Least Concern)1. This species faces no major threats and it is widespread.

Arum Lily
  1. IUCN Redlist – Arum Lily Fact Sheet