Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 11:09 EDT

Calla Lily, Zantedeschia aethiopica

The Lily of the Nile or Calla Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) is a species of plant native to southern Africa in Lesotho, South Africa, and Swaziland. It has been introduced to Western Australia where it occurs in high periodical water tables and sandy soil. Several hybrids have been established and introduced to other areas around the world. Some hybrids are more suited to cooler climates. One hybrid, Crowborough, grows better in the British Isles and the northwestern United States than it does in Africa. Another common name for this species is the Arum Lily. However, this plant is neither related to true arums nor true lilies. This plant is considered by many people in the Republic of Ireland to be a symbol of Irish Republicanism.

This plant grows to 2 to 3 feet tall with large clumps of arrow shaped greenish leaves up to 18 inches long. The flowers are large and produced in the spring, summer and autumn. It has a pure white spathe (leaf-like stem that encases the flower cluster) that is up to 10 inches long and a yellow spadix (small spike that holds the flower cluster) that is about 3.5 inches long. Hybridizations have been attempted between this and another species that produced albino hybrids that do not grow properly or survive.

Zantedeschia is highly toxic and can be fatal if eaten. Ingestion may cause a severe burning sensation and swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat. Stomach pain and diarrhea is likely. It is declared a pest weed by many horticulturists. It is mostly used as an ornamental plant in gardens. Several cultivars (hybrids) have been produced of which have different growth ratios and color types. One hybrid, Pink Mist, is said to be a difficult plant to grow.

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Calla Lily Zantedeschia aethiopica