Arum italicum – Large Cuckoo Pint

The hailstorms of almost biblical proportion, torrential driving rain and raging winds that have plagued the garden in the last couple of days have left some of the residents looking a little disgruntled.  This Arum italicum has not turned a hair and continues to sit resplendent in the Winter Border.  In the spring it produces a spathe of white flowers and once pollinated by the copious insects drawn to it, green maturing to red fruit form in tandem with the leaves dying back.  Once these lollipops have finished their show the leaves return for our winter delectation.  It is a woodland plant and enjoys part or even full shade and will tolerate sun when there is reliably damp soil.  The word Arum comes from the greek word aron meaning poisonous plant, this refers to the fruit which are poisonous to humans, when eaten they apparently give the sensation of needles being stuck into the tongue which I would guess would dissuade anyone from eating any more.  They are however very attractive to the champion of berry eaters, the blackbird.  The tuberous roots can apparently be boiled and eaten as a vegetable, the processing destroys the toxins, and once dried produces a kind of arrowroot.  Its species name italicum means “coming from Italy” but it has also been suggested that this refers to the mottled leaves giving the appearance of Italian marble.  Another storm on the way tonight, time to batten down the hatches and fret about the safety of some of our plants, but not this one.

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