Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Autumn Leaves... Arum italicum.

In various nooks and crannies in our garden, colonies of Arum italicum are nonchalantly unfurling their shiny, tropical-appearing, exotically patterned leaves, even as temperatures close to freezing are forecast for tonight. These plants are not crazy; it's not their fault they find themselves plopped down in the middle of Iowa. Arum italicum is native to the deciduous forests of Europe, with their milder winters, and has hibernal leaves (leaves which arise in the fall, persist through the winter, then die back in the heat and dryness of summer). This also allows the plant to grow under the dense shade of deciduous trees, as the arum foliage arises as the trees drop their leaves. Most of our native woods ephemerals approach this problem by arising very early in the spring, but we do have a number of shade wildflowers that also utilize hibernal leaves (some of which which I'll show in the near future). However, our natives with hibernal leaves are usually much more modest, and ground-hugging, than the gaudy arums. Therefore, Arum italicum is better suited to milder winters than ours (in fact, along the Pacific coast it is too successful; eating up gardens for lunch before moving on to the neighbors' yards, and finally harassing the paperboy). Still, it does survive and persist here, and in warmer winters or with good snow cover, its leaves come through remarkably unscathed. It will send up its odd, hooded flowers in the spring, then its foliage starts to die back, while stalks of berries persist for a time.
Arums belong to the aroid family, which includes such familiar plants as our native Jack in the pulpits. According to the I.A.S. (International Aroid Society), there are a couple of other species of arum that might survive here, and I intend to try them; one has purple hoods (spathes) over the flower. There are also numbers of clones of Arum italicum selected for showier patterning of the leaves (of which the above plant is an example).Posted by Picasa

Where I live in the Western Cape in South Africa the most common flower at the moment, flowering in their hundreds of thousands in the countryside, here in early spring is the white Arum Lily. Good description on http://gardening.mweb.co.za/1144.htm. There are also yellow and pink varieties, not common to the Western Cape, but found in other areas of the country
I am SO jealous of where you live... seems like I read that S.A. has more varieties of native flowers than anywhere else on earth. I suppose YOU don't even have to garden; just walk out in the back yard and enjoy all the widflowers!
Hi Don, glad to find your blog and with that the ID of some leaves I spotted on my local patch. We might not live in sunny S.A., but here in SW Eire, Arum Lilies still grow wild, also.

I might not be a gardener, but, as a keen birder, I do love the Wild flowers growing near here, and it saves a lot of work too!
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