Sunday, 31 January 2016

Parson in the Pulpit

Everyone is familiar with this plant even if they call it Wake Robin, Cuckoo Pint, Lords and Ladies or even Dogs' Dillies.

I was pleased to find its bright green leaves heralding spring when I visited Byfield earlier today. It will be some weeks yet before we see its curious flowers but it is nevertheless unmistakable.

Lords and Ladies at Byfield, Northants.
31 January, 2016

The specific part of its Latin name, Arum maculatum, refers to the spotted leaves, but as the photograph shows, they are frequently unspotted - immaculate one might say. As for the common name, there are dozens of vernacular variations, but most refer to the ithyphallic form of the spadix, which may be purple or cream.

It is a member of the huge Araceae Family which, with around 3,700 species, is one of the world's largest plant families. When I was in my teens the duckweeds were included within the family but botanists then created the Lemnaceae to accommodate them. I am pleased to note that duckweeds are now back in the Araceae. So in Amorphophallus titanum the family now contains the species with the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world (and always makes the newspapers when a foul-smelling specimen is about to flower) and the world's smallest vascular plant in Wolffia arrhiza. The last-named is a duckweed, and a rare British native, but I have never found an example. Specimens turned up in a cattle trough near Polebrook in 1984 but have since disappeared and the species now appears to be extinct in Northamptonshire.

Peace Lily at Danetre Hospital.
23 January, 2016

Many members of the family make good house plants and, in less than happy circumstances, I was able to photograph this Peace Lily, Spathiphyllum cochlearispathum in the waiting area of Danetre Hospital a few days ago. Its relationship to Lords and Ladies is very obvious.

Be assured, I will return to the Lords and Ladies plant when it flowers.

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