Italian Arum. Surprise!

Protected and somewhat obscured by a gardenia, an Italian Arum thrives. Though not obvious at first, it sits tucked away under the large shrub, awaiting discovery from a passer-by.

The hastate or arrow-shaped leaves of Arum italicum (Italian Arum) add textural interest this time of year. The shiny deep green leaves, accentuated by light, vein-like markings, emerged in early fall (October) and remained evergreen all winter.

The garden was new and had very little shade when this plant was first added, so the arum was sited on the northern side of the house in a narrow strip along the foundation. For a couple of years it made a nice companion plant to a large clump of hostas, filling in when the hostas died back each year. The hostas are long gone (taken by drought, not deer, surprisingly) and the now mature foundation shrubs fully occupy the slender space.

I had planned to divide the Italian Arum this year and move some into the main garden where it might be more noticeable, to create a more effective display. In researching today how to divide Italian Arum I have learned that would not be wise. Unfortunately this plant is not native, rather it comes from Africa, Asia and Europe. It is listed as invasive in some parts of the U.S., including the nearby state of Virginia. Some North Carolina gardeners report Italian Arum as extremely difficult to eradicate and warn against planting it.

So this started out as a post about the surprise of coming upon a lovely and unusual plant such as Arum Italicum in the garden. It was supposed to end this way:

The arum certainly is fun where it exists now, lending that element of the unexpected. Walking by its hiding place, missing it at first, then glimpsing it at last and noticing its amazing surprise of shape and pattern, one is reminded of the joy plants can bring.

Arum Italicum (Italian Arum) held an even bigger garden surprise than I knew. This plant has always behaved well in this garden but if its seeds can spread and cause problems, I will have to seek some expert help for clarification and advice.

Meanwhile at least Arum Italicum did provide an opportunity to learn the word hastate:

Hastate, spear-shaped (hastata): Pointed, with barbs, shaped like a spear point, with flaring pointed lobes at the base
“Leaf shape.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.. Dec 2011. Web. 1 Feb 2012.

4 thoughts on “Italian Arum. Surprise!

  1. greenbenchramblings

    Arum italicum is a great garden plant here in the UK, with no chance of it spreading. It dies down each summer leaving a stalk of red berries. Our native one has plain green leaves and lives under hedges. Is has more common names than almost any other wild flower such as Cuckoo Pint, Jack in the Pulpit.

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      A good example of native plant in the right place! I am trying to learn more about native habitats for plants–still have a long way to go. By the way, NC’s native Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum, is pictured here.
      Thanks for reading!

  2. Rebecca Williamson

    I found this same plant growing in the woodsy area of my back yard. I assumed it may have come from a discarded florist pot at some time in the past because it looked so exotic. I did divide 3 of them into 9 or ten plants and planted them one spring on a northwest corner of an outbuilding. They have had a year to recover and look so beautiful and lush right now (January) that my neighbor asked for one to share. I hope it’s not a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I have enjoyed them…but then again, those cute little violets were darling at one time…sigh

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Rebecca, it is an pretty plant. Mine is in a lot of shade and I can’t tell it has spread much in 12 years so I’m taking a wait-and-see approach. Oh, violets! Don’t have them now but used to at another home and they were so sweet. Have a good day!


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