A. candidissimum

White Chinese Cobra Lily


Its first year in our garden, Arisaema candidissimum got its stem broken by some animal, & we did not get to see it do much. The second year it began to grow out of the ground at such a sharp angle it was nearly horizontal, as though it had been planted sideways. After the young leaves & inflouresence saw the sunlight it began to twist its way upright, but never quite got verticle.

At first the folded leaves were sideways as well, but by the time the flower was spent, the leaves had successfully righted themselves.

I can't imagine the sideways bent appearance is normal, but must be the result of having been broken off the year before. But it does grow on steep shaded slopes in pine forests of Yunnan, China, so maybe it had some genetic memory of growing sideways out of the steep hills.

A. candidissimum For longer than any other variety we have, it shows itself throughout spring as nothing but a "horn" poking out of the ground. If the slow development is not expected, it can seem that something went wrong, for while other pulpit species are rapidly developing blooms & leaves, A. candidissimum continues on & on as a rubbery pointy horn poking up from the soil, seemingly not growing at all.

Then in the warm season, it finally takes off, & the spathe & leaf stem arise simultaneously in June, in full bloom through much of July. Most but not all of this species produce scented pulpit flowers. I was unable to detect a scent in ours. Although it can stand the summer heat very easily, it must never experience complete droughtiness, or it will go dormant before fully blooming.

It has leaves much larger than the the majority of jack-in-the-pulpits, but only grows one or two feet tall. These glossy leathery tripartate leaves continue growing after the flower spathe is spent by mid or late July. These leaves can reach a two foot wide span, & just so long as the ground does not completely dry out entirely, the leaves will last well into October, occasionally longer. Many Arisaemas have leaves that last into autumn, but relatively few bloom outside of spring. So it's an excellent addition to any Arisaema collection, in order to have at least one still blooming in summer.

ArisaemaThe big leaves don't completely open & develop until the flower is in full display. In the second July photo, if you look closely, you can see the leaves are still rolled like cigarette papers, & the flourescence has gotten its hood above the leaves. But a week later the leaves were above the flower opened into their trillium-like apperance.

The third photo shows the leaves on the last day in July while still in the midst of a heatwave, & although the exhausted spathe can be seen worn out on the ground, the leathery leaves remain vibrant & still growing larger each day. Additional photos of this specimen can be viewed in the A. candidissimum page of the Pulpit Gallery.

The spathes are usually white with green stripes, with a white-striped pink interior, & a "jack" who is skinny & bends his pointy head forward from the pulpit.

Occasionally the pink interior shows on the outside as well, & there are also strains that are maroon & pink. Ours was particularly striking in its whiteness, but as the flouresence ages, the green stripes become more dominant so that it looks increasingly vanilla & lime icecream-striped.

If ours seems to have been struggling in 2003, it's because it got broken that first year & never really had a chance to re-energize its roots. I'm surprised it bloomed so beautifully even so. It is known to be a bit more delicate than the hardiest species of cobra lilies, but once established it should show no more stress. The majority of A. candidissimum are sterile & the seeds are rarely seen, but the pink tuber will produce many offsets, & will eventually develop several young plants around it.

Continue to:
American Jack-in-the-Pulpit,
Arisaema triphyllum ssp triphyllum


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