Tag Archives: dead horse arum

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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Dead Horse Arum Rises from the Earth

A reader of Rotten Botany gracioulsy sent me pictures of this gorgeous Dead Horse Arum that came up in the garden of her  home in the Sierra Foothills in spite of a heavy snowfall this winter. As she wrote to me, it is located in the back corner of the garden so its scent isn’t too permeating.

I agree with the owner that this is a Dead Horse Arum. The Arum Konjac or Devil’s Tongue has a red stamen, and the Voodoo Lily has a moddled stem. The Vampire Lily seems to have more of a ruffled edge to the flower but it does look similar to this. They are all members of the same Araceae family. mmmm..ARUMS!

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.

And if you have pictures of any unsusal plants growing let me know!

Dead Horse Arum in GVArum in gardnedead horse arum two

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The Stinkvine! Paederia foetida

These pretty little flowers almost fool you into thinking this vine can’t stink!

Paederia foetida

Stinkvine, Skunkvine, Chinese Fever Vine,  Maile Pilau

Family: Rubiaceae

Native to temperate and tropical Asia

Naturalized in Melanesia, Polynesia and even Hawaii, though it is not native.  Considered an invasive weed in Florida and other parts of the Southern United States. It was introduced to the USA as a potential fiber plant in 1897. Oops!

Height: To 30 ft. though usually 20 or so.

USDA Zone 6a: to – 11. (Yep, really! That’s why it still thrives in Florida!)

From the looks of this baby you would not believe it stinks to holy hell (though its name would probably have tipped you off) because its delicate bi-colored flowers (white to pale yellow fading to pink/lilac and/or red) look like sweet little tubes of pretty. And that’s part of what makes this perennial, evergreen rotanical even more interesting. It’s flowers, actually, are not the fetid part. When you crush the leaves of this fantastic plant you get a horrid sulphuric smell, earning its name Stink Vine. The actual oils of the plant contain a sulphur compounds, including dimethyl disulphide.

Dimethyl disulphide is the same compound found in the Dead-Horse Arum and other rotten species that let off the smell of rotten meat in order to attract flies for pollination. (more on the Dead-Horse Arum next week!)

In Hawaii this is the main larval food plant for the Maile Pilau Hornworm, a hummingbird moth.

Interestingly, one of its common names Chinese Fever Flower, alludes to its other amazing properties. Ethnobotanically speaking, the Stink Vine and its sulphurous compounds contain a great deal of antioxidants and is used medicinally as an anti-inflammatory, an immune booster, and has even shown potential as an anti-cancer agent. In Indonesia the leaves are traditionally served boiled with rice and sambal, often by street vendors. The leaves are also high in calcium and Vitamin C and very rich in potassium.

If you want to read a very nerdy but wonderful study of the Indonesian variety of Paederia foetida, click this link.

If you want to try and grow it in your own garden you’ll have the best luck in coastal climates that are mild or hot and muggy climates like Florida and Louisiana. In the right zone it can apparently can survive the occasionally cold snap. You can find seeds here:  Georgia Vines

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