Midlands Wildflower for December – Zantedeschia aethiopica

Common Name: Arum Lily, Zulu Name: ihlukwe or intebe, S Sotho name: mothebe, Afrikaans name: Varklelie, Witvarkoor

r arum bud

As the Afrikaans name for this plant suggests, Zantedeschia is a favourite food of bush pigs and porcupines.  While they make a real mess, they never actually destroy the plant. It sprouts again the next season from the remaining root stock.

r porcupine

The leaves are boiled and eaten as a vegetable in rural KZN. Marshy areas in the Midlands are filled with clumps of the lush, dark green, arrow shaped leaves topped by beautiful, faintly scented lilies in summer. Arums are found in many habitats, from the coast to the mountains, so make great garden plants for a variety of conditions.


The “flower” is actually many tiny flowers arranged in a complex spiral pattern on the central column. The top 7 cm are male flowers and the lower 1.8 cm are female flowers. This yellow column is surrounded by the white spathe (a modified leaf). Pollination is by crawling insects and bees, while birds disperse the ripe seeds.

r arum flower

Arum Lilies were introduced to Europe in the mid 1600’s and are extremely popular in many parts of the world. Unfortunately, in Australia this plant has become an invasive weed and much effort is expended on eradicating it. So be glad you live in South Africa where growing it is legal, easy and a joy. Propagation from ripe seeds or by division of the fleshy rootstock is simple. It is fast growing and will thrive in the sun with rich soil and plenty of water. Cut stems last very well in the vase and are often used in bridal bouquets.

Unfortunately, due to their popularity as cut flowers, they are being harvested from the wild.  It is illegal to pick any wildflowers.

dont buy arums



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