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Plantgasm - I love plants too much. By Derek Powazek.

If Loving Arum is Wrong, I Don’t Want to be Right

This post is going to have so many important disclaimers, I decided to put them first.

Disclaimer 1: Technically, everything in a state/city-owned park is owned by the state/city, and removing anything is either against the rules or outright illegal, unless you have permission, which I got from a gardener who told me I’d be doing him a favor removing the Arum since he considers it a weed (see disclaimer 2).

Disclaimer 2: The Arum genus is invasive in some places. Some gardeners curse the plant as a horrible pest. I’m not one of them.

Disclaimer 3: Arum, like most Aroids, are poisonous and contain calcium oxalate, which can irritate the skin, though I’ve never had a problem handling them.

Got all that? Okay, then.

I’ve been keeping an eye on a few clumps of Arum (probably italicum) in Buena Vista Park all year. I love their arrowhead leaves with silver lines, and their spathe/spadix flowers. I noticed them blooming way back in March. They’re a beautiful bit of the tropics here in California.

arum-1

If their flowers are fertilized by flies and ground-crawling bugs, they form berries. They start out green, then turn yellow, and then finally red when they’re ripe. This is a signal for birds to come eat them, and in turn “distribute” (aka poop) the seeds elsewhere.

Buena Vista Park is where I walk my dogs, so it was easy for me to keep an eye on them. I first noticed the green berries in April, and they started turning red in late July. Four months is a long time to survive in a dog park.

arum-2

When I finally saw red berries, I harvested some (see disclaimers!) and took them home to plant. Preparing Arum berries is like other Aroids, including Alocasia and Pinellia. Each berry contains a seed or two, which you have to pop out and wash. Aroid seeds aren’t viable for long, and they die once they dry out, so the quicker the better.

arum-3

Once you pop the seeds out and wash them, you can plant them like any other seed. I put mine in a few pots, in normal houseplant soil, buried a quarter inch or so. If they sprout, I’ll plant them somewhere they’ll be appreciated, like my back yard, where the Buena Vista Park gardeners can’t find them.

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5 Responses

Good luck with the seeds! This is a very cool plant. I have a friend (fellow IAS member) who lives in northwest Italy and says Arum italicum grows everywhere there in it’s native region. I’ll have to establish some one day in one of my shadier flowerbeds.

Posted by Zach on 5 August 2011 @ 8am

I wasn’t aware that they needed to be popped out and washed rather than planted whole. I’ll try that. Maybe I’ll have more luck.

Posted by Deirdre on 9 August 2011 @ 11am

Deirdre – You don’t have to, but I tried an experiment with Pinellia seeds popped and unpopped, and the germination rates were much better with the popped seeds.

Posted by Derek on 9 August 2011 @ 11am

I love this! It’s so timely for me because I just noticed these berries coming up out of the star jasmine outside our house and wondered what the heck they were. I never saw the plant, just the berries – however, I can see in your pics that the plant is beautiful! I’m going to harvest some seeds and plant them :) Thank you so much!

Posted by Cynthia Clinton on 19 August 2011 @ 3pm

I feel the same way…I love Arums and have had several disputes over their value. I don’t mind them popping up all over my garden. Where I have been gardening the last 6 years in GA, they go completely summer dormant, so they are a welcome lush texture in winter.

Posted by Kristin Landfield on 24 August 2011 @ 11am


Plantgasm

Plantgasm is where Derek Powazek chronicles his botanical antics and misadventures. More.