Zantedeschia aethiopica“Calla Lily”
San Franciscans are familiar with calla lilies, for they seem to naturalize wherever they wish in neglected places in the city. calla lilies are not lilies at all but a member of the Arum family. They are native to Cape Town, South Africa, where they bloom in profusion most of the year along the roads and in the ditches.
The funnel-shaped white sheath that encircles the golden spike inside is called a spathe, and the spike is called a spadix. The spadix contains thousands of miniature flowers, some with pistils, some without, some with stamens, some without. There are 8 species of Zantedeschia in colors from white to pink to yellow. If the spathe is yellow, the fleshy arrow-shaped leaves can be spotted. The plants grow from a rhizome, or horizontal underground stem, and can develop into large colonies of flowers, which are both fragrant and poisonous.
'Hercules' is a large variety of Zantedeschia, and has an open flat style of spathe rather than the usual spiral shape. 'Green Goddess', on the other hand, has large spathes that are white at the base and green towards the tip. The South African garden has many callas in bloom.
||Prefer moist, humus-rich soil in sun and good well-drained conditions. Can also be grown as a marginal aquatic plant. Evergreen or deciduous depending on habitat and rainfall
||Used as a marginal plant along streams, or edge of pond or other water feature. Plant in partial shade if permanent water is not available.
||Other well-known species in the Araceae: Philodendron and Dieffenbachia (two common ornanmental plants); CA. native skunk cabbage, Lysichiton americanus
The tiny flowers on the spadix are arranged with male on the top 7cm and female the lower 1.8cm
The rhizome (underground stem) is eaten by wild pigs and traditionally the plant is boiled and eaten. Raw plant material causes swelling of the throat due to sharp calcium oxalate crystals.
Calla lilies can be found by the County Fair Building (Bed 2), around the perimeter of the Great Meadow (Bed 3Q), in the Entry Garden (Beds 5B, 5C) and in the South Africa Garden (Beds 26A, 26D, 27J).
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Photos by Docent Joanne Taylor
Text by Docent Kathy McNeil
Profile by Associate Curator David Kruse-Pickler