Arum Lilies in my garden (Tarlton, South Africa) – W&N watercolour and coffee on a textured back-ground
“For she is a fair maiden, fairest lady of a house of queens. And yet I know not how I should speak of her. When I first looked on her and perceived her unhappiness, it seemed to me that I saw a white flower standing straight and proud, shapely as a lily, and yet knew that it was hard, as if wrought by elf-wrights out of steel. Or was it, maybe, a frost that had turned its sap to ice, and so it stood, bitter-sweet, still fair to see, but stricken, soon to fall and die?”
- J.R.R. Tolkien
White or common arum lily (English); Wit varkoor (Afrikaans). The striking arum lily “flower” is actually many tiny flowers arranged in a complex spiral pattern on the central column (spadix). The tiny flowers are arranged in male and female zones on the spadix. The top 7 cm are male flowers and the lower 1.8 cm are female. If you look through a hand-lens you may see the stringy pollen emerging from the male flowers which consist largely of anthers. The female flowers have an ovary with a short stalk above it, which is the style (where the pollen is received).
These plants are native to Southern Africa from South Africa north to Malawi.
Did you know these plants are poisonous? Wikipedia says, “The Zantedeschia species are poisonous due to the presence of calcium oxalate. All parts of the plant are toxic, and produce irritation and swelling of the mouth and throat, acute vomiting and diarrhea. However, leaves are sometimes cooked and eaten.”