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Botanical Name : Arum maculatum
Species: A. maculatum
Synonyms: Lords and Ladies. Arum. Starchwort. Adder’s Root. Bobbins. Friar’s Cowl. Kings and Queens. Parson and Clerk. Ramp. Quaker. Wake Robin.
Common Names : snakeshead, adder’s root, arum, wild arum, arum lily, lords and ladies, devils and angels, cows and bulls, cuckoo-pint, Adam and Eve, bobbins, naked boys, starch-root, wake robin, friar’s cowl and jack in the pulpit. The name “lords and ladies” and other gender related names refer to the plant’s likeness to male ? and female ? genitalia symbolising copulation.
Arum maculatum is also known as Cuckoo Pint or Cuckoo-pint in the British Isles and is named thus in Nicholas Culpepers’ famous 16th Century herbal. This is a name it shares with Arum italicum (Italian Lords-and-Ladies) – the other native British Arum. “Pint” is a shortening of the word “pintle”, meaning penis, derived from the shape of the spadix. The euphemistic shortening has been traced to Turner in 1551.
Habitat :Arum maculatum is widespread across most of Europe, south and east of Sweden, including Britain, south to N. Africa.It grows in hedges, woodlands, copses etc, especially on base-rich substrata
The Arum family, Aroidae, which numbers nearly 1,000 members, mostly tropical, and many of them marsh or water plants, is represented in this country by a sole species, Arum maculatum (Linn.), familiarly known as Lords and Ladies, or Cuckoo-pint.
Arum maculatum is a perennial plant growing to 0.5 m (1ft 8in). and is not frost tender. It is in flower from April to May, and the seeds ripen from July to August. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Flies.
The purple spotted leaves of Arum maculatum appear in the spring (April–May) followed by the flowers borne on a poker shaped inflorescence called a spadix. The purple spadix is partially enclosed in a pale green spathe or leaf-like hood. 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. Insects, especially owl-midges Psychoda phalaenoides, are attracted to the spadix by its faecal odour and a temperature up to 15 degrees celsius warmer than the ambient temperature. 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. The spadix may also be yellow, but purple is the more common.
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.
Prefers a humus rich soil and abundant water in the growing season. Prefers a shady damp calcareous soil. Succeeds in sun or shade. Plants are very shade tolerant and grow well in woodland conditions. The inflorescence has the remarkable ability to heat itself above the ambient air temperature to such a degree that it is quite noticeable to the touch. Temperature rises of 11°c have been recorded. At the same time, the flowers emit a foul and urinous smell in order to attract midges for pollination. The smell disappears once the flower has been pollinated. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer.
Seed – best sown in a greenhouse or cold frame as soon as it is ripe. The seed usually germinates in 1 – 6 months at 15°c. Stored seed should be sown in the spring in a greenhouse and can be slow to germinate, sometimes taking a year or more. A period of cold stratification might help to speed up the process. Sow the seed thinly, and allow the seedlings to grow on without disturbance for their first year, giving occasional liquid feeds to ensure that they do not become mineral deficient. When the plants are dormant in the autumn, divide up the small corms, planting 2 – 3 in each pot, and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for a further year, planting out when dormant in the autumn. Division of the corms in summer after flowering. Larger corms can be planted out direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up the smaller corms and grow them on for a year in a cold frame before planting them out.
Tuber is cooked and used as a vegetable. A mild flavour, the root contains about 25% starch. A farina can be extracted from the root. Roots can be harvested at any time of the year, though they are best when the plant is dormant. At one time, the tubers of this plant were commonly harvested and used for food, but they are very rarely used nowadays. The root must be thoroughly dried or cooked before being eaten. (see the Known Hazards below) . Leaves – must be well cooked. Available from late winter. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.
Part Used: Root.
Arum maculatum has been little used in herbal medicine and is generally not recommended for internal use. The shape of the flowering spadix has a distinct sexual symbolism and the plant did have a reputation as an aphrodisiac, though there is no evidence to support this. The root is diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, strongly purgative and vermifuge. It should be harvested in the autumn or before the leaves are produced in the spring. It can be stored fresh in a cellar in sand for up to a year or can be dried for later use. The plant should be used with caution. The bruised fresh plant has been applied externally in the treatment of rheumatic pain. A liquid from the boiled bark of the stem has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea. A homeopathic remedy is prepared from the root and leaves. It has been used in the treatment of sore throats.
Arum maculatum is cultivated as an ornamental plant in traditional and woodland shade gardens. The cluster of bright red berries standing alone without foliage can be a striking landscape accent. The mottled and variegated leaf patterns can add bright interest in darker habitats.
Starch from the root has been used as a laundry starch for stiffening clothes. Its use is said to be very harsh on the skin, producing sores and blisters on the hands of the laundresses who have to use it, though another report says that the powdered root makes a good and innocent cosmetic that can be used to remove freckles.
Known Hazards: 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. It is one of the most common causes of accidental plant poisoning based on attendance at hospital A & E departments.
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider