Cautleya spicata – Chinese Butterfly

These curious looking nodules are the seed pods of Cautleya spicata.  Up until recently they put me in mind of sugared almonds.  This was until the Medlar Fairy commented that they look like maggots.  Maggots it is then.  Sometimes this plant is known as the Chinese Butterfly which you must admit is far more romantic than maggot lily.

It belongs to the family of ginger lilies, Zingiberaceae, and grows perfectly happy in our garden and is the least of my worries when it comes to tenderness.  It is deciduous and when it dies back we give it a token mulch to protect it from the worst of the weather, but can withstand some degree of frost.  It is native to the eastern Himalayas/Nepal, not known for their balmy winters, where it grows in moist shade on forest floors or even as an epiphyte in the trees.  It is exotic looking and is indeed exotic, with lush green leaves and yellow flower spikes with vivid red bracts.  These spikes eventually turn into these equally attractive, to my mind and anyone who likes maggots, seed heads.   The pith of the stem is allegedly edible and can be eaten as a vegetable and the root can be concocted into a potion to cure stomach problems.    We grow it in part shade where it is protected in the slim chance it might get too much sun (some hope).



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5 responses to “Cautleya spicata – Chinese Butterfly

  1. Maybe it’s the angle? It doesn’t look like maggots to me but it doesn’t look entirely pleasant either. Kind of creepy. Maybe you could add in a picture of what it looks like when in flower?

  2. Malvern Maid

    My first thought was – how could you allow all those snails (grey body white shell) on any plant!

  3. The Frustrated Gardener

    Mine have never produced seed pods….I wonder what I am doing wrong? However the snails love the leaves if I’m not careful. I grow it in a pot and it seems very happy, although it needs a much bigger one next year. When it dies down I shove it into dry shade and bring it out again in spring, so it seems very easy going.

    • Why don’t you chance some planted out next year? Faint heart never won fair Cautleya seeds pods, or something like that. Save a bit in a pot just in case and who knows what might happen.

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