Lords and Ladies
Arum maculatum is known by many common names - Lords and Ladies, Cuckoo Pint, Jack-in-the-Pulpit and Wild Arum being just a few. It is a shade-loving, native, tuberous perennial that spreads both through rhizomes and seed.
The leaves appear early in February, followed by the curled-up flower towards the end of April. This handsome hooded 'flower' is technically a spathe, the true flower being concealed within the plant. It emits a smell that attracts flies and midges and the plant has the ability to generate heat and raise the immediate temperature by as much as 15 degrees C. The spathe is slippery, causing insects to fall into the trap below where they remain until they have helped pollinate the flower. They are then released and transmit the pollen to another arum - and so the pollination cycle continues.
Once the plant has been pollinated the spathe withers and the flower grows into a spike of berries, which ripen and turn scarlet in August.
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Arum maculatum is poisonous. The berries are particularly toxic but all parts of the plant contain sap that burns and blisters. It hurts the mouth and the first reaction is to spit it out, so poisonings are rare. Especial care should be taken when collecting wild garlic as the leaves can look deceptively alike.
Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018