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Arum italicum

Previously known as:

  • Arisarum italicum
Phonetic Spelling
AIR-um ih-TAL-ih-kum
This plant has high severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Italian Arum is a herbaceous perennial and member of the Araceae family. It was originally planted as an ornamental groundcover. It is now considered invasive in some parts of the United States because it is difficult to control and spreads rapidly. All parts of this plant are poisonous to humans and wildlife. The plant can cause skin irritation and illness.

Italian Arum is a native of Asia, Europe, and North Africa. It has been introduced in parts of the United States. The plant may be found in forests, urban areas, riparian zones, and wetlands

The genus name, Arum, is a Greek term meaning 'poisonous." The species name, italicum, means "of Italy."

The plant grows in partial shade to full sun and is tolerant of most soil types. It prefers moist humus soils.  

Italian Arum grows from corms. It has a clump-forming habit. Arrow-shaped deep glossy green foliage with white veining appears in late September or early October. It is present through the winter months. The hood-like flowers usually appear in April and May. The flower has a central spadix and is surrounded by a creamy white-colored spathe. After the flowers are spent, the foliage will wither. The plant then produces clusters of berries that are initially green and then transition to orangish-red that remain through August. The foliage is dormant during the summer and reemerges during the fall. The leaves will remain present in mild winter climates. In colder climates, the leaves will reemerge in the spring. The plant typically grows up to 12-18 inches tall. The plant is reproduced by seeds and tubers.

The plant contains calcium oxalates. If ingested, it will cause throat and tongue swelling that will result in difficulty breathing or possible death. 

The flowers are pollinated by small flies that are attracted to the plant due to the odor of the flowers.

It has been suggested as a plant for cottage gardens, borders, or containers. Before considering this plant for your home garden, it is best to determine if this species is considered invasive in your area. It would also be a wonderful opportunity to discover other US native plants that have similar features such as Arisaema tryphyllum, better known as Jack-in-the-Pulpit.

Quick ID Hints:

  • tuberous rhizomatous roots
  •  arrow-shaped leaf deep green leaves with silver-gray veining
  • the flowers have an erect, slender, pale to a dark yellow or dull brown spadix
  • the spadix is surrounded by a creamy white spathe with purplish margins
  • the flower has the odor of stale urine
  • cylinder-like spike of green to orangish-red berry clusters

Insects, Diseases, and Other Problems: The plant has no serious insect or disease problems. The foliage is dormant in the winter. The plant is very difficult to control and spreads by seeds and underground corms. Manual removal is difficult. If removed, all parts of the plant should be placed in the trash and not your compost bin. It has deep roots and underground bulbs that make it difficult to eradicate. Be sure to wear gloves and protective clothing when handling this plant. All the plant parts can cause skin irritation.

Invasive: The species is invasive on the west coast and the mid-Atlantic United States. There are no effective ways to control the plant, and it is unresponsive to herbicides. The North Carolina Native Plant Society-- Invasive Exotic Plants in NC placed Italian Arum on the Watch List Class A in 2010. This list includes plants that naturalize and may become problem plants in the future but more information is required.  

See this plant in the following landscapes:
Shaded Slope Small shade garden Hydrangeas in the Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Pictum'
    Variegated leaves
  • 'Scottish Silver'
    Green leaves with silver marbling
  • 'Spot On'
    Green leaves with large black spots
'Pictum', 'Scottish Silver', 'Spot On'
Tags:
#poisonous#houseplant#weedy#showy leaves#interiorscape#high maintenance#showy fruits#fast growing#aggressive#spadix#spathe#red fruits#orange fruits#skin irritation#contact dermatitis#container plants#poisonous if ingested
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Pictum'
    Variegated leaves
  • 'Scottish Silver'
    Green leaves with silver marbling
  • 'Spot On'
    Green leaves with large black spots
'Pictum', 'Scottish Silver', 'Spot On'
Tags:
#poisonous#houseplant#weedy#showy leaves#interiorscape#high maintenance#showy fruits#fast growing#aggressive#spadix#spathe#red fruits#orange fruits#skin irritation#contact dermatitis#container plants#poisonous if ingested
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Arum
    Species:
    italicum
    Family:
    Araceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Macaronesia, North Africa, Western Europe to Iraq
    Distribution:
    Native: Albania, Algeria, Azores, Baleares, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Corse, Cyprus, France, Great Britain, Greece, Iraq, Italy, Kriti, Krym, Madeira, Morocco, North Caucasus, Portugal, Sardegna, Sicilia, Spain, Switzerland, Transcaucasus, Tunisia, Turkey, and Yugoslavia. Introduced: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, New Zealand, and the USA--DC, IL, MD, MO, NY, NC, OR, and WA
    Dimensions:
    Height: 1 ft. 0 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Houseplant
    Poisonous
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    High
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    After the flowers fade and the foliage withers, the fruits will develop. The stem of the flower elongates to 6-12 inches tall. An oblong cluster develops at the top of the stem. It has a papery tunic that will dry and open. Inside the tunic, there is a cluster of orangish-red berries.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Spadix
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Size:
    > 6 inches
    Flower Description:
    The flower has a central, erect, slender, pale to dark yellow or dull brown spadix that measures 4-5 inches tall. The spadix is surrounded by a green-yellow or white spathe with purplish margins and measure 8-10 inches tall.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are large arrow-shaped, dark green, and glossy. The primary and lateral veins are silver-gray or greenish-white. The leaves can grow up to 12 inches long and 6-8 inches wide.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Houseplants
    Naturalized Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Cottage Garden
    Rain Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Heavy Shade
    Wet Soil
    Problems:
    Contact Dermatitis
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Children
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
    Weedy
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    High
    Poison Symptoms:
    Ingesting any part of this plant may lead to symptoms of throat and tongue swelling. This may cause increased difficulty breathing and result in possible death. Physical contact with this plant can cause skin irritation.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Calcium oxalate crystals
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    Yes
    Poison Part:
    Bark
    Flowers
    Fruits
    Leaves
    Roots
    Seeds
    Stems