Sweet Arum

Miniature Green Dragon;
or, Sweet Arum


"Thirsty Arum, ever dreaming
Of lakes in wildernesses gleaming!"

-George MacDonald
(1824-1905)

   

The beautifully marked arrowhead leaves of Pinellia cordata are a deep green with silvery-white vein tracings. The arrowheads are an inch or so wide & three to six inches long. The underside of the leaves are purple, & when they first emerge the leaves are folded so that only the purple shows.

Sweet ArumThe summer & early autumn inflourescence is like a diminutive jack-in-the-pulpit. It consists of a tiny two or three inch green to yellow spathe (some have purple around & under the hood). This rests atop a black peducule (stalk), & has a long skinny yellow spadix that extends up & out of the spathe for several inches.

The inflourescence has the scent of candy or an overripe banana. The scent doesn't carry far, but it is worth the effort of stooping to take a sniff. Ours grows on a raised ledge for just such accessibility.

It is native to southeast China & Korea, where it is grown as a medicinal plant rather than an ornamental. The genus is named for Giovanni Vincenzo Pinella, 16th Century founder of the Botanic Gardens of Naples, Italy. The genus name is for the extended cord-like spadix.

It wants to be planted in a cool location & will go dormant if conditions become dry & hot, but will last from spring through all of summer & into early autumn in a moist well-draining cooly shaded spot.

In summer it produces a tiny bulbil on each leaf, more reliably than it sets seed from the inflourescence. When it does set a seed, it is not a cob like for jack-in-the-pulpits, but one seed only, green when ripe, on a stem that invariably topples to the ground to be cleaned off by insects.

Hardy to minus ten degrees F., it is one of the easiest aroids to grow. Some species within this genus can be aggressive to the point of troublesome, but P. cordata spreads slowly & is unthreatening to neighboring plants.

   



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