Australia > All Weeds > Arum Lily

Arum Lily

Zantedeschia aethiopica

Origin: Native of South Africa


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Flower image by Nemo's Great Uncle

Family: Araceae.

Known Hazards: Many plants in this family are poisonous raw, due to the presence of calcium oxylate crystals. If eaten raw, this toxin gives you a sensation as if hundreds of tiny needles are sticking into the mouth, tongue etc. However, it is easily destroyed by thoroughly cooking or drying the plant. Although no specific mention has been seen for this plant it is wise to assume that it is poisonous in its raw state.

Habitat: Wet marshy places

Edibility Rating: 1 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 0 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Robust clump-forming, perennial herb to 1.5 m high. Plants with tuberous underground stems (rhizomes) and fleshy white roots. Leaves with blade 15–50 cm long and 8–25 cm wide, on fleshy stalks 40–110 cm long. Fruit green or yellow, about 1 cm wide; seeds yellow-orange, about 3 mm wide.
Flowers: Flower stem about as high as the tops of the leaves. Upper half to three quarters of flowerspike (spadix) is male and lower part female. Flowers late winter to summer.The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Insects.

Distinguishing features: Distinguished by dark green shiny leaves that are arrow-shaped to ovate with a heart-shaped base, and have main veins the same colour as the rest of the leaves; showy white funnel-shaped part of inflorescence (spathe) 10–25 cm long surrounding spike of yellow flowers.

Dispersal: Spread by seed and movement of rhizomes.

Edible Uses

Young leaves - cooked. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

Medicinal Uses

None known

Other Uses

None known

Notes: A common garden plant toxic to stock and humans with fatalities in both recorded. Naturalised on damp land and stream banks in temperate Australia. Thrives on sandy soil with a periodic high water table. A serious weed along creek lines and in wet areas of south western Western Australia. Frequently sold in the cut flower trade. Seeds germinate readily, but do not remain viable from year to year.


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