Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Horticultural Interpreter.
Should you be strolling in the Shade Border over the next few days, you might just catch the gentle aroma of cow manure. The origin of this odor is not the recent application of an organic fertilizer, or even a stray cow, but the extraordinary blooms of the Voodoo lily.
Sauromatum venosum is a member of the arum family and demonstrates the flower structure typical of this family: a spadix (a vertical spike composed of many tiny flowers) emerging from a spathe (a flag-like elongated bract). The spathe in this case is very long and its beautiful patterns make it worthy of close inspection.
Flies are attracted to the scent of the flowers, for obvious reasons, and they serve as pollinators. The first photo above demonstrates the attraction for flies.
Native to India, it acquired the “Voodoo” moniker because of its ability to produce a bloom even when the bulb (actually a corm) is out of the soil and deprived of water.