isiXhosa: Intebe

Afrikaans: Wit varkoor

White arum lily


White arum lily

Zantedeschia aethiopica

Scientific name

"Zantedeschia aethiopica grows from 0.6-1 m but may get taller in the shade. It has lush-looking dark green leaves with an arrow head shape. The size varies according to the amount of shade. The flowers appear in a main flush from August to January, although there may be the odd flower at other times of the year also. The white arum forms large colonies in marshy areas ranging from the coast to an altitude of 2 250 m. Thus one will find them contending with humid, salt laden air at the coast and freezing, misty mountain grasslands at high altitudes. They are very versatile in the garden as a result."

Flowers are pollinated by bees and insects and attract frogs, and spiders as well. Fruit is eaten by birds.

The plants can expel excess water allowing them to survive wet conditions. Grow in partial or deep shade with plenty of water, compost and mulch. It is evergreen or deciduous depending on the habitat and rainfall regime. In the Western Cape it is dormant in summer, and in the summer rainfall areas it is dormant in winter. It will remain evergreen in both areas if growing in marshy conditions which remain wet all year round.

The white arum may be used as a marginal plant along streams, or on the edge of a pond. Plant in partial shade if there is no permanent water. It can be planted as a foliage plant in deep shade under trees but will not flower well in this position. It is fast growing and likes very rich, well-drained conditions.

This is a larval host plant to Macroglossum stellatarum (Hummingbird Hawk-moth) caterpillar, attracts bees and other pollinating insects and a white crab spider of the family Thomisidae often visits the flower to capture insects (http://www.plantbook.co.za/zantedeschia-aethiopica/).

Traditionally used for headache treatment.

Propagation instructions

By seed

Grow by seed, first soaking over night in warm water (4-12 week germination period), or divide rootstock and plant 5 cm deep. The white arum is very easily cultivated by seed or division. Seed should be sown in spring. The fruit is ripe when it has turned yellowish and is soft. The pulp should be removed and the seed dried off. The grey seeds can be sown in clean seedling mix and covered lightly. Take care not to sow them too thickly as they will need space to form the fleshy roots. The fleshy rootstock can be divided when the plant is dormant, it should be re-planted about 5 cm deep.

By cutting

It may also be propagated by division where the plant is not dormant. Use a sharp spade to cut out a section for replanting.

References and further reading

Learn more »

PlantZAfrica profile »

Wikipedia page »

Image credit: Paul Hoekman
Seedbank Quantity
Arundel Seedbank 143
Total 143
Nursery Quantity
Arundel Nursery 12
Total 12

This table below shows how many plants we are trying to obtain for this species.

Site Area Quantity
Site #62 Newlands 30
Site #15 Rosebank 25
Site #66 Mowbray 40
Site #64 Mowbray 30
Site #60 Bishop's Court 60
Site #20 Rosebank 100
Site #68 Rondebosch 20
Site #69 Rondebosch 10
Site #67 Rondebosch 15
Site #71 Rondebosch 10
Site #72 Rondebosch 10
1 other sites 10
Total 350

Can you help grow this species?

We are in need of this species! Can you help? Maybe you have this species at home, or perhaps you can collect seeds or cuttings (if applicable) from friends or from a public space. If so, why don't you help establish this species in areas where it is much needed!

I can help!

Important characteristics

Conservation status: Least Concern

This species was selected because it has various important characteristics.

This is a bird-friendly species

It provides medicinal value

Fragrant

Edible

Suitable for wet sites

It provides food for:

Honeybees/flies

Zantedeschia aethiopica is indigenous to: Cape Flats Sand Fynbos Peninsula Shale Renosterveld

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