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Zantedeschia elliottiana
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Alismatales
Family: Araceae
Subfamily: Aroideae
Tribe: Zantedeschieae
Genus: Zantedeschia[1]
Syst. Veg. 3: 756, 765 (1826)[2]
Type species
Zantedeschia aethiopica (L.) Spreng[3]

Houttinia Neck.
Colocasia Link
Richardia Kunth
Otosma Raf.
Arodes Heist. ex Kuntze
Pseudohomalomena A.D.Hawkes[4]

Zantedeschia albomaculata, from L'Illustration Horticole v.7 (1860), by Charles Antoine Lemaire (1801-1871), and Ambroise Verschaffelt (1825-1886)

Zantedeschia /ˌzæntɨˈdɛskiə/[5] is a genus of eight species of herbaceous flowering plants in the family Araceae, native to southern Africa from South Africa north to Malawi. The genus has been introduced on all continents except Antartica. Common names include arum lily for Z. aethiopica, calla, and calla lily for Z. elliottiana and Z. rehmannii although it is neither a true lily (Liliaceae), nor an Arum or a Calla (related genera in Araceae). The colourful flowers and leaves are highly valued, and both species and cultivars are widely used as ornamental plants.


Zantedeschia species are rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plants growing to 1-2.5 m tall with leaves 15–45 cm long. The inflorescence is a showy white, yellow or pink spathe shaped like a funnel with a yellow, central, finger-like spadix.[6]


The name of the genus was given as a tribute to Italian botanist Giovanni Zantedeschi (1773–1846) by the German botanist Kurt Sprengel (1766–1833).


Eight species are currently recognized:[7]


All species are endemic to central and southern Africa, from Nigeria to Tanzania and South Africa. Z. aethiopica grows naturally in marshy areas and is only deciduous when water becomes scarce. It grows continuously when watered and fed regularly and can survive periods of minor frosts. Z. aethiopica is a very strong and sturdy plant, being able to grow in many soils and habitats, multiplying by rhizome-offsets; it is naturalised and regarded as a weed throughout much of the world. Z. odorata is a rare species, resembling Z. aethiopica, but deciduous and smelling like freesia, endemic to a few localities in South Africa. Z. albomaculata is a widespread and variable species, growing from South Africa north to Kenya, varying in shades of white to cream and pink to orange-shades. Z. elliotiana is known from horticultural sources only and is probably of hybrid origin. Z. jucunda and Z. pentlandii are rare species with beautiful large yellow showy flowers. Z. rehmannii is a pink-flowered species with sword shaped leaves.


Zantedeschia was intoduced to Europe in the seventeenth century as Z. aethiopica[8] and is now widely naturalised and in many places, is considered a dangerous invasive species, displacing native vegetation.[9] In the South-West of Western Australia, Z. aethiopica was introduced for horticulture, but has become a widespread and conspicuous weed of watercourses, heath, and wetter pastures.


Z. aethiopica grows naturally in marshy areas and is only deciduous when water becomes scarce. It grows continuously when watered and fed regularly and can survive periods of minor frosts. Z. aethiopica is a very strong and sturdy plant, being able to grow in many soils and habitats, multiplying by rhizome-offsets.


All Zantedeschia produce large, showy flowers spathes and are often grown both as ornamental plants and for cut flowers. Zantedeschia are relatively hardy plants, but some are more winter-hardy than others. In this regard there may be considered two groups, a hardy outdoor group with white flowers (arum lilies) and less hardy group with white -spotted leaves and flowers in many colours (calla lilies).[10]

Hardy forms (arum lilies)[edit]

These include Zantedeschia aethiopica and Zantedeschia pentlandii and their cultivars. Zantedeschia aethiopica and some of its relatives can survive at minimum winter temperatures below -23 °C (USDA Zone 6) and many others can be grown in even warmer areas where all the ground does not freeze (USDA Zone 7).[10] Z. pentlandii hybrids include 'Millenium Gold'.[11]

Tender forms (calla lilies)[edit]

The more tender specimens are mainly cultivars (hybrids) of Zantedeschia elliotiana and Zantedeschia rehmannii (referred to as elliotiana or rehmannii cultivars or hybrids, or as e.g. Z. x rehmanii), but also Zantedeschia albomaculata and Zantedeschia jucunda.. These less hardy forms can only survive winter temperatures to -12 °C (Zones 8). This plant must be grown as tender bulbs or houseplants in cooler areas. Species and hybrids between Z. elliotiana, Z. jucunda, Z. pentlandii and Z. rehmannii appear to have an optimum temperature for growth near 25 °C, with growth being suppressed once daily average temperatures persist at 28 °C.[10][12]

Zantedeschia x rehmanii 'Neon Amour'

Z. rehmannii hybrids include 'Amethyst'.[13], 'Crystal Blush'.[14] and 'Neon Amour',[15] while an example of a Z. elliotiana x Z. rehmannii hybrid would be 'Blaze'.[16]. Z. elliotiana x Z. maculata hybrids include 'Lemon Drop'.[17] Z. elliotiana hybrids include 'Solar Flare'.[18]


Zantedeschia species are poisonous due to the presence of calcium oxalate. All parts of the plant are poisonous, typically producing local irritation or a burning sensation in the mouth and occasionally vomiting and diarrhea.[19][20] However leaves are sometimes cooked and eaten.[21]


Zantedeschia bridal bouquet with mix flowers

Extensive commercial production of Zantedeschia for cut flowers and/or planting material occurs in California, Colombia, New Zealand and Kenya.[12] Plant breeders in California and New Zealand continue to produce an extensive range of new hybrid cultivars. The so-called white calla is derived from Z. aethiopica. All varieties with flowers with shades of yellow, orange, red, purple are mainly derived from Z. albomaculata, Z. pentlandii, Z. elliottiana and Z. rehmanni.


Zantedeschia has often been used in paintings, and is visible in many of Diego Rivera's works of art (see The Flower Vendor, amongst others). It was a favourite subject of the painter Georgia O'Keeffe.


  1. ^ Stevens, Peter F. (2001 onwards). "Angiosperm Phylogeny Website". Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  2. ^ Zantedeschia Spreng. in World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
  3. ^ "Index Nominum Genericorum". Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  4. ^ Govaerts, Rafael; Frodin, David G. (2002). "World Checklist and Bibliography of Araceae (and Acoraceae)". The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  5. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  6. ^ Botanicas Annuals & Perennils, Random House, Sydney, 2005, ISBN 0-09-183809-6 pp. 938
  7. ^ "African flowering plants database". Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques Ville de Genève. Retrieved 2008-11-07. 
  8. ^ Aubrey, Alice (2001). "Zantedeschia aethiopica (L.) Spreng.". Witwatersrand National Botanical Garden. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  9. ^ Comité français de l'UICN, IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (2008). "Global Invasive Species Database". Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c Royal Horticultural Society: Zantedeschia
  11. ^ Pacific Callas: Millenium Gold
  12. ^ a b Funnell, K.A. 1993. Zantedeschia, p.683-739. In: A.A. De Hertogh & M. Le Nard (eds.) The physiology of flower 'bulbs'. Elsevier Scientific Publishers, Amsterdam
  13. ^ Pacific Callas: Amethyst
  14. ^ Pacific Callas: Crystal Blush
  15. ^ Pacific Callas: Neon Amour
  16. ^ Pacific Callas: Blaze
  17. ^ Pacific Callas: Lemon Drop
  18. ^ Pacific Callas: Solar Flare
  19. ^ Slaughter RJ, Beasley DM, Lambie BS, Wilkins GT, Schep LJ (December 2012). "Poisonous plants in New Zealand: a review of those that are most commonly enquired about to the National Poisons Centre". The New Zealand Medical Journal 125 (1367): 87–118. PMID 23321887. 
  20. ^ Miles, Jackie (2002-09-12). "Arum or calla lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica )". South Coast Weeds. Eurobodalla Shire Council. Retrieved 2007-11-18. 
  21. ^


  • Hussey, BMJ; Keighery, GJ; Cousens, RD; Dodd, J; Lloyd, SG (1997). Western Weeds: A Guide to the Weeds of Western Australia. Perth: Plant Protection Society of WA. ISBN 0-646-32440-3. 

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