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Arum italicum

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arum arum

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Arum italicum is a species of flowering herbaceous perennial plant in the family Araceae, also known as Italian arum and Italian lords-and-ladies. It grows 30–46 cm high and it blooms in spring with white flowers that turn to showy red fruit. It is cultivated as an ornamental plant for traditional and woodland shade gardens.
The purple spotted leaves of Arum italicum appear in the spring (April–May) followed by the flowers borne on a poker shaped inflorescence called a spadix. The flowers are hidden from sight, clustered at the base of the spadix with a ring of female flowers at the bottom and a ring of male flowers above them.
Above the male flowers is a ring of hairs forming an insect trap. The insects are trapped beneath the ring of hairs and are dusted with pollen by the male flowers before escaping and carrying the pollen to the spadices of other plants, where they pollinate the female flowers.
In autumn the lower ring of female flowers forms a cluster of bright red berries which remain after the spathe and other leaves have withered away.

These attractive red to orange berries are extremely poisonous. The berries contain oxalates of saponins which have needle-shaped crystals which irritate the skin, mouth, tongue, and throat, and result in swelling of throat, difficulty breathing, burning pain, and upset stomach. However, their acrid taste coupled with the almost immediate tingling sensation in the mouth when consumed mean that large amounts are rarely taken and serious harm is unusual.

The root-tube may be very big and is used to store starch. In mature specimens the tuber may be as much as 400 mm below ground level.
All parts of the plant can produce allergic reactions in many people and the plant should be handled with care. Many small rodents appear to find the spadix particularly attractive and it is common to find examples of the plant with much of the spadix eaten away. The spadix produces heat and probably scent as the flowers mature and it may be this that attracts the rodents.
The root of Arum, when roasted well, is edible. It was used like salop or salep (a working class drink popular before the introduction of tea or coffee). It was also used as a substitute for arrowroot. If prepared incorrectly, it can be highly toxic so should be prepared with due diligence and caution.

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Read 17125 times Last modified on Saturday, 24 August 2019 07:58
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