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Italian Arum

June 2012

QuestionThese plants seem to be volunteers, they come up every year and the clusters of berries start out green and end up orangey red. The foliage, which withers pretty quick, has some of the same feel as peace lilies. We have no idea what it is, do you?


AnswerThe plant in question is an Italian arum — actually a shade perennial. Related to our native Jack in the Pulpit which can also produce these seed pods, the Italian arum is not native, but has been around for a long time. The plants grow foliage in late fall to early winter, then the leaves die back with the onset of hot weather. If the plant bloomed with a spathe-like flower, the resulting seed stalk is left behind and the green berries turn a bright orange when ripe. It is striking to see these clusters of seeds with absolutely no foliage. It has become a pass-along plant, since they do multiply.

February 2012

QuestionCan you tell me what the name of the plant is that is green now, dies in summer, looks similar to a calla lily, and puts on a white leaf like bloom ?


AnswerI believe you are referring to the Italian Arum. It has arrow shaped variegated leaves now, can produce a white spathe-like bloom, and then when the temperatures heat up, the foliage dies back and a stalk of orange seeds can remain.

January 2012

QuestionWinter Color 2012


AnswerPerennials are plants that come back for more than one year. While we surely hope our trees and shrubs come back every year, the term perennial is used for non-woody, or herbaceous plants in the garden. Here again, we have choices that bloom, spring, summer, fall and yes, even winter. Right now there are several species of hellebores that are blooming. Helleborus niger is the Christmas rose, and actually started blooming in my garden in early December. Helleborus orientalis or the Lenten Rose, typically doesn’t start blooming until February. New hybrids are now available at many nurseries with blooms starting in January, lasting through April. These plants are evergreen, but do their growing and blooming in the cool season. When hot weather arrives, they basically survive, but don’t do any new growing. In addition to a long bloom period, when color is definitely needed, they also do well in the shade. New cultivars also have upright flowers. A lot of plant breeding has been going on in the hellebore world, and there are many new choices. Colors range from reds, to pinks, whites and greens. Double flowers as well as singles are available. Italian Arum, Arum italicum is an interesting perennial for the shade garden. The variegated leaves are abundant now and quite showy. It will produce a spath-like blossom, and with the heat of summer, the foliage disappears, often leaving just a stalk with bright orange berries. The leaves are great in the winter garden. Don’t overlook rosemary as a shrub, groundcover or perennial. This culinary herb is evergreen and actually blooms in the winter months with a beautiful purple flower. Best planted in well drained, dry sites in full sun, it is easy to grow, and edible to boot.       

September 2010

QuestionI recently saw this pod of bright orange-red seeds while hiking near Ferndale. I can’t identify it from any of my books. Can you help?


Answer      This is the seed pod of an arum-- either the Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) or Green Dragon (Arisaema dracontium). The plants grow in the cooler months of late winter through spring. When they mature, the females produce a spathe like bloom and set a cluster of seeds. The foliage dies away with hot weather leaving behind the cluster of seeds. As the seeds mature they turn bright orange or red, depending on the species. While these two plants are native, a non-native species is the Italian Arum (Arum italicum) which produces foliage in late fall through spring, leaving behind the naked seed stalk as well.      

May 2010

QuestionI have a plant that I transplanted last year from my son's yard. I have no idea what it is but it has been very interesting to have in my garden. I planted it last spring and it appeared to have died when the weather got hot. To my surprise last fall, there it was !!!. It came back and flourished all winter through the snow and extreme cold that we had. Today I got another surprise. It has a beautiful bloom. I have no idea what this plant is and would like your help identifying it. I have never seen a plant such as this survive in the yard in Arkansas.


AnswerThe plant in question is called an Italian Arum- Arum italicum. It is a hardy perennial which thrives in cool weather. Once the temperatures heat up, the foliage dies away, resting until the following fall. Since yours is producing the spath-like bloom, it will probably set berries. At first the stalk will be covered in green berries, but they eventually turn bright orange. The berries persist after the foliage dies away. We get lots of questions on identification of the berries without leaves. It will tolerate sun, but is most commonly planted in woodland gardens      


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