Alison Jane Harley

- botanical and floral artist -

Mystery plant – but you know what it is….

8 February 2021

I spotted some lovely variegated leaves today while walking through a piece of wasteland where the main plants growing in summer are Dog roses, Japanese knotweed and brambles. Well it isn’t summer, it’s February, and I saw something so exotic it stopped me in my tracks. I took a photo and with the use of plantnet (https://identify.plantnet.org/), I was amazed to discover it is what’s commonly known as Italian arum, Arum italicum. It was only when I saw photos of other elements of the plant on the site that I realised I had actually been unwittingly photographing this at various stages of its development throughout the year thinking I had come across a highly unusual specimen. I first spotted the strange looking rigid stalks with berries on top in June 2020 near Hondarribia in the Basque country in Spain, and took some photos.

Arum italicum with berries (June 2020 – Basque country)

In February I snapped some more with leaves only that was growing along the banks of the river Seine in France. Today was the first time that I have put the elements together seen the full leaves that go with the berries. And….apparently it is rampant in some areas depending on the conditions – wow. My mission this year is to sketch and paint an Italian arum lily and now I know where to find all elements as the plant evolves through the season.

Arum italicum (leaves)- February 2021

I will not be tempted to dissect or dig up a sample though as it is growing too close to the dreaded Japanese knotweed which I once also found very attractive, although now at the very sight of which I can feel it’s roots wrapping round my ankles and following me home….

Common name: Italian arum (back of leaf)
Italian arum – with spathe unfurled (May 2021 – banks of the Seine)

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