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Arisaema consanguineum

Arisaema consanguineum is a striking plant with rather sinister-looking flowers and bold foliage.

Arisaema consanguineum

Arisaema consanguineum (Photo: Martyn Rix)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Arisaema consanguineum Schott

Conservation status: 

Not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria.

Habitat: 

Pine forests, mixed conifer/deciduous forests, thickets, grassy slopes and lakesides between rocks.

Key Uses: 

Ornamental, medicinal, leaves boiled and eaten in the Himalaya.

Known hazards: 

All parts of the plant contain oxalic acid and calcium oxalate crystals (raphides) which are strongly irritating and can result in severe poisoning if eaten. Can only be eaten safely after being properly processed and cooked.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Lilianae
Order: 
Alismatales
Family: 
Araceae
Genus: Arisaema

About this species

Arisaema consanguineum is an exotic-looking tuberous perennial, with arum-like flowers, usually striped brown and cream. It is widely available in British nurseries and adds an exotic note to the garden. It is a variable species, which is perhaps unsurprising due to its wide distribution in Asia, and although plants originating from the Himalaya are hardy in southern England, those from Thailand, for example, need glasshouse protection. It is therefore of practical use to know the origin of a plant before purchasing a specimen.

This species was named by Heinrich Wilhelm Schott (1794-1865), Director of the Imperial Gardens at the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. He was one of the great experts on the aroid family and produced numerous beautifully illustrated books on the subject.

Synonym: 

Arisaema erubescens var. consanguineum (Schott) Engl.

Genus: 
Arisaema

Discover more

Geography and distribution

Arisaema consanguineum subsp. consanguineum is native to northern India, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, northern Thailand, Laos and China. Arisaema consanguineum subsp. kelung-insulare is restricted to Taiwan. It is found at elevations of 1000–3200 m.

Description

Arisaema consanguineum is a tuberous perennial, up to 1 m tall. It has a single leaf (rarely two), with several narrow leaflets, tapering to a thread-like tail. The flowers appear May–July and have a green, or brown and cream striped spathe (about 5 cm long) with a long, narrow point and a whitish, club-shaped spadix. The flowers are followed by a cluster of red berries.

Threats and conservation

Arisaema consanguineum is common in many parts of China.

Uses

Arisaema consanguineum is grown as an ornamental. In Nepal, the leaves are boiled and eaten as vegetables. The tubers of many species of Arisaema, including A. consanguineum, are used in the Himalaya and China for a variety of medicinal purposes. For example, A. consanguineum is traditionally used to treat coughs, epilepsy and rheumatism. However, all parts of the plant contain oxalic acid and calcium oxalate crystals (raphides) which are strongly irritating, and can produce severe poisoning if eaten without proper preparation. In India, for example, this species, the common name of which is snake cob, has been responsible for livestock poisoning.

This species at Kew

Arisaema consanguineum can be seen in the Woodland Garden at Kew Gardens and in the Bog Garden at Wakehurst.

Pressed and dried and alcohol-preserved specimens of Arisaema consanguineum are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. The details of some of these specimens, including images, can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

View details and images of specimens

Curtis's Botanical Magazine

Curtis's Botanical Magazine (Editor: Martyn Rix) provides an international forum of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, plant ecologists and those with a special interest in botanical illustration.

Now well over 200 years old, the Magazine is the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants. Each four-part volume contains 24 plant portraits reproduced from watercolour originals by leading international botanical artists. Detailed but accessible articles combine horticultural and botanical information, history, conservation and economic uses of the plants described.

Published for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew by Blackwell Publishing.

Find out more about Curtis's Botanical Magazine

References and credits

Bown, D. (2008). The Royal Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London.

Chopra, R.N., Badhwar, R.L. & Ghosh, S. (1965). Poisonous Plants of India, Vol. II. Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi.Gusman, G. & Gusman, L. (2006). The Genus Arisaema. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

Manandhar, N.P. (2002). Plants and People of Nepal. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

Mayo, S. (1984). Arisaema consanguineum. Curtis’s Botanical Magazine 1(2): 59-61.

Phillips, R. & Rix, M. (1989). Bulbs. Pan Books, London.

Riedl, H.H. (1965). Heinrich Wilhelm Schott (1794-1865). Taxon 14(7): 209-213.

World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2010). Arisaema consanguineum. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Available online (accessed 1 Aug 2011).

Kew Science Editor: Martyn Rix
Kew contributors: Anna Haigh and Steve Davis
Copyediting: Malin Rivers

Although every effort has been taken to ensure that the information contained in these pages is reliable and complete, notes on hazards, edibility and suchlike included here are recorded information and do not constitute recommendations. No responsibility will be taken for readers’ own actions.

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