Plant of the Month - October 2018
Arum pictum is unique within the genus in that it flowers at the start of its growing period in the autumn.
The Genus Arum consists of 25 species of tubrous, perennial plants, all with the same basic morphological characteristics of a spathe ( the sail-like structure) and a spadix ( the erect, cylindrical structure sticking up inside the spathe) on a peduncle (flower stem) and leaves which arise from the base.
Arum pictum comes from the Balearic Islands, Corsica, Sardinia and the Tuscany area of Italy and as such should be offered protection when grown in cultivation, either as a pot plant or in a sunny, well-drained position outdoors. Propagation from seed is straightforward, as is division of the tuber using the amply provided off-sets.
The somewhat overwhelming feature of this plan is the foul odour emitted from within the spathe, used to attract pollinating insects. It is thought that as this type of Arum has its inflorescence near the ground amongst scrubby undergrowth or rocky clefts that an attractive odour is more productive than a totally visual one; the pollinators being dung-breeding and carrion-breeding insects.
If the transiently displeasing smell hasn’t put the grower off, the attractive foliage alone is a very good reason to grow this species. Peter Boyce noted in his 1993 monograph ‘The Genus Arum’, ‘ On first emerging (the leaves) are deep, shiny, metallic green…. As the leaf expands …. The main and lateral veins become slightly paler. As the season progresses the blade loses its sheen but the veins continue to lighten until spring, when the stand out as a creamy white to silvery network’.
In the late 1990's I received a plant from the late Primrose Warburg, originating from Majorca, where the silvery-white network of leaf veins were already fully apparent at the outset of growth and even in late autumn they were seen to retain their shiny, metallic green gloss. This eyecatching ornament feature made it stand out from other clones encountered so I gave it the name Arum pictum 'Primrose Warburg' (above) in honour of the great plantswoman who grew so many fine plants in her garden at 'South Hayes'; it received a P.C. when shown to the Joint Rock Garden Plant Committee in October 1999.