Dead Horse Arum!

I love this photo because it has a fly on it!

Helicodiceros muscivorus

Dead horse Arum or Dead Horse Lily

Family: Araecea

(Synonyms are Helicodiceros crintius and Dracunculus crintitus–I prefer this one of course!)

This Mediterranean island native  is, next to the Corpse Plant, the category killer for rotten botanicals. Like it’s odoriferous cousins the Voodoo Lily and the Vampire Lily, The Dead Horse Arum lures flies and carrion beetles to its pollen coated stamen with the alluring smells of rotting meat, or rotting flesh of horses.(And like its cousins Voodoo and Vampire, it is also not really a lily.)

This beauty sports a wide inflorescence, with a somewhat phallic spadix (well, have you met a spadix that isn’t phallic?) which is made up of tiny male and female flowers. What is referred to as the flower is actually a modified leaf (spathe) plus spadix made up of tiny flowers. The spathe is moddled, usually a rich shade of red but can have some green and even white. The spadix is typically black or deep maroon.

The Dead Horse Arum is also one of a rare group of thermogenic plants. It can raise its own temperature, a handy trick to convince those flies that it really is hot, dead, flesh. How rotten is that? The Corpse Plant does this as well.

Incidentally, other plants that are thermogenic include the Elephant Ear philodendron and certain water lilies. Who knew?

Similar to other arums or aroids the Dead Horse Arum goes dormant. It is grown from a corm and likes a nice hummus rich soil, does great in containers, and can even withstand a bit of a temperature drop, as long as its buried snugly in a said hummus-y soil. I expect this would do well in most climates if kept in a container and properly mulched/brought into a hot house for the winter. That being said, I’m spoiled in my Mediterranean San Francisco climate and wonder if any of you inlanders, Southerners, or Northern Europeans have any experience growing this savory rotanical? Let us know !

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14 thoughts on “Dead Horse Arum!

  1. Mary Austern says:

    Just moved into a house in Sierra Foothills…elevation about 2500 feet above sea level. Snowed heavily late winter and had some very cold days, but this Spring a large and lovely “lily” appeared to be ready to burst into bloom…so I watered it prodigiously. I now realize it is said Dead Horse Lily! And it’s growing like a plant from another planet. Fortunately it is located in the back corner of the garden so the “fragrance” isn’t detected when hanging out on the patio. Still…imagine my surprise.

    • gardeness says:

      That is pretty much the dream situation!! Can you take pictures of it and post? I’m not sure if you can post a photo in comments so if you can’t let me know and I’ll send you my email address. This is very exciting news because I wasn’t sure if these could survive the heavy snow up there. I grew up in the Nevada City area and now I am going to send some of my arums up to my mom to see if she can grow them! Thanks for the share.

      • Mary Austern says:

        I have three pics of the plant taken this morning…one of the blooms, and the Spadix (I think that’s the term for it) is around 13 inches long! Very prominent! Also very, very dark purple coloring. I’ll trry to paste pics, but think I may need to email them. MA

        Nope. Won’t let me paste pic.

      • Mary Austern says:

        BTW…your mom could probably drop by my place and have a new sprout that just came up this Spring nearby the original lily.

  2. […] Thanks, Mary A. for this amazing pictures. I have to admit, I am super jealous. I’ve always dreamed of moving into an overgrown garden with hidden creepers and fetid florals lurking beneath the ivy. Who planted this arum there? It was no accident. Read more about the Dead Horse Arum on Rotten Botany HERE. […]

  3. derekdgregory says:

    I have seen it only a handful of times in Tennessee. Never wild mind you but in someones garden who incidentally had no clue what it was. She was going to destroy it but I got it from her and transplanted it into my flower bed. It has done well but none of my attempts to grow another one have worked. I think it takes a specific soil ratio to grow successfully but I’ll figure it out one day, heh.

  4. Good info. Lucky me I ran across your blog by chance
    (stumbleupon). I have bookmarked it for later!

  5. Babs says:

    I have one of those now blooming near my back kitchen door. I thought there was a dead animal somewhere until I got brave and put my nose closer to the bloom…wow. How do I post you a photo of it, because its really really amazing!

  6. Jana Owen says:

    We live in Tennessee, one hour North of Nashville on the Kentucky line. My grandfather owed one on his farm (he loved unique plants)and when he died over 24 years ago, my mother transplanted it to her home. It continues to bloom every Spring despite very cold, icy winters. I took pictures on May 18, 2014 but don’t know how to send them to you.

  7. Wayne Couzens says:

    We have recently moved to Courtenay B.C. on Vancouver Island. We discovered this plant tonight growing in our yard…We are just reading how rare it is to grow this far north. It is beautiful, but you are right it smells like a dead horse LOL

  8. Cathy Ryerson says:

    Mine is the Black Lily. Imagine my surprise years ago while washing dishes then looking out my window to see something dark red among the leaves! I had never seen one before and it took me several years to find out what they were, I have tried to baby them ever since. I have transplanted a few but have to remember where so as not to disturb. I have quite a lot so this time of year I get really excited when I start seeing the beautiful leaves appear. I have mixed some with my white Calla’s. I live in the Central CA Coast so the climate seems to be right for it.

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