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Zantedeschia aethiopica (arum lily)

The striking arum lily has been known to European horticulture since at least the 1660s and is one of the world's most iconic and widely known plants.
White arum lily flower

Zantedeschia aethiopica (Photo: Wolfgang Stuppy)

Species information

Common name: 

arum lily, calla lily

Conservation status: 

Not of conservation concern.

Habitat: 

Marshy places in Southern Africa.

Known hazards: 

All parts of the plant are poisonous, causing irritation and swelling of the mouth and acute gastric diarrhoea.

Taxonomy

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

About this species

Zantedeschia aethiopica is one of the world's most iconic and widely known plants. Although commonly known as the arum lily or calla lily, it is not a lily at all but an aroid, with its brilliant white spathe (floral bract) surrounding the central pale yellow spadix (floral spike) bearing tiny flowers.

This very attractive plant has been known to European horticulture since at least the 1660s. Carl Linnaeus described it in 1753 as Calla aethiopica and it has been commonly known as the calla lily ever since. The species epithet 'aethiopica' refers to the fact that it is native to Africa. In 1826 Sprengel transferred it to a new genus which he called Zantedeschia. According to Cythna Letty (1973), the name was probably given in honour of Giovanni Zantedeschi, an Italian botanist who lived in the early 19th century.

Genus: 
Zantedeschia

main info

Courses at Kew

Kew offers a variety of specialist training courses in horticulture, conservation and plant science.

Students learn about plant taxonomy and identification

Why People Need Plants

A compelling book from Kew Publishing that explores the crucial role that plants play in the everyday lives of all of us.

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