With spring underway and everything bursting into life, sometimes we’ve got to slow things down a bit and take a closer look. At this time of year there’s a lot of beauty to be found, acknowledged and appreciated. Although more diminutive then most of the garden’s oddities; Arisarum proboscideum is a worthwhile plant to grow. When I first acquired this tiny plant I made note to put it somewhere it wouldn’t get lost. This plant lends well to being planted in a container so it stands out and makes a bigger impression when it’s doing it’s spring thing. Mid spring this plant rises from the dead and begins it’s spring flush, first with the emergence of it’s small arum like leaves than a gang of these strange mouse tail blooms appear.
I have read that these strange hooded flowers emit an odor similar to mushrooms and attract fungus gnats to aid pollination. So far I’ve had no problems keeping this plant alive; what with it being pest free and hardy here in Victoria. Some report problems with tuber rot but this can be avoiding with providing adequate drainage and not overwatering. With that being said make sure you maintain regular moisture throughout it’s growing season so as to avoid setting the plant into early dormancy. After a couple seasons the plant will grow in a size and is easily divided to start other colonies.
Word to the wise for those in Victoria looking for this plant, I saw some great 4″ pots of arisarum proboscideum for sale at Demitasse in Oak Bay.
I first encountered this amazing plant a couple weeks back while having lunch at Demitasse Cafe in Oak Bay. While eating my soup and sandwich I hummed and hawed and eventually decided to bring this strange specimen home with me. (As if there was any doubt) Although it would be well suited for the woodland section of my garden I thought better of it and planted it in a pot in the front.
Arisarum proboscideum is an aroid which makes it a relative of the philodendron and the voodoo lily. It’s leaves are remincicent of any other arum I’ve ever encountered before being that it’s leaves are shaped like the head of an arrow. Arisarum proboscideum is native to Spain and Italy and grows naturally in moist sheltered woodlands. The plant spreads via tuberous rhizome and in the right conditions naturalizes with ease. Some go as far as saying it can be invasive but this seems to be the less preached opinion. The mouse plant flowers in early spring up until summer then goes dormant until things cool off. This aroid has evolved over the millenium to do a interesting little trick. It’s flower’s mimic a mushroom fungus, both with smell and it’s white spongy design to lure in unlikely pollinators. It’s spring flowers “coincidentally” coincide with the first spring generation of ready to breed female fungus gnats. The gnats are tricked into laying their eggs inside of the flower head where they inadvertently pick up the plant’s pollen and carry it out with them to other arisarums.
The mouse plant is hardy from zones 6-9 (with some protection) and is a welcome oddity to the garden. If you have the choice you might want to consider planting it in a raised bed so you get a better view of it’s strange little flowers. On the ground the flowers are covered with a dense coat of leaves and can sometimes be missed. Keep it moist but not waterlogged as there have been stories that letting it dry out could induce a premature dormancy. After you have an established clump the plant is easily divided for you and your friends. Great conversation plant, for both the young and the old.
Some information about this post was found in the book “Aroids: Plants of the Arum Family by Deni Bown”