Several years ago, I was given a single bulb to plant in what I called my garden of oddities, a small area I reserved for “interesting” one of a kind plants. From the description I had received, it sounded like this new addition would fit in nicely.
I watched with eagerness as the plant began to reveal itself. First, a stalk with an exotic reticulation pattern grew about a foot tall. At this point I was worried that this very tropical looking plant would not survive our local climate.
Next, light green ruffled leaves unfurled into unusual spiral groupings. I was very please with my new plant, but the voodoo lily was far from done with the show.
As the leaves continued to fill in, a large protuberance grew from the top of the stock to about a foot long. Soon it bloomed, exposing a stunning maroon spathe with undulated edges, surrounding a long deeper maroon spike (spadix) that at times appeared almost black.
The voodoo lily was quite a site to behold, yet its affect on another sense is what keeps it from being a popular garden plant. For a time period, usually not more than a day, the voodoo lily emits an odor resembling a rotting animal corpse. In fact, I would go as far as to say it is almost identical to the smell of a opossum that has been dead for about a week, at mid-summer temeratures. Some voodoo lily owners claim that they do not smell anything unusual from their plants. However in the ten or so years since I have had my plant, there has always been at least a half day of possum smell. It is a good thing my voodoo lily was planted a fair distance from the house.
I once thought that the voodoo lily was a carnivorous plant which attracted flies and trapped them in a pool of water contained in the bottom of the spathe. But the truth is that the smell attracts carrion eating insects so they can pollinate the plant. Cunning huh?
Though the bad smell is short lived, unfortunately so are the flowers, which only last about four days. When the flower dies away, a seed cob is revealed. The raisin size seeds start out green, but change to a lustrous orange, before its stem weakens and the cob falls to the ground. It is said that beetles and ants carry away the seeds where they start new plants, but so far I have not witnessed any insects hauling the seeds away or come across voodoo lilies anywhere else.
The voodoo lily (Dracunculus Vulgaris) is also known as dragon arum, ragons, snake lily, black arum, black dragon, dragonwort, & stink lily.
The bulb on my plant has split several times over the years, so now I can get four or five blooms from this bushy grouping of plants. However some years, a single blossom seems to become the dominant flower, and the others don’t reach nearly the size of the larger one.
I have found the voodoo lily to be hardy and easy to maintain. As long as I occasionally give it some water, and keep the morning glory away, my plant seems happy. My voodoo lily is planted about three feet west of a six foot fence, so it gets plenty of morning shade. The voodoo lily does well in zones 5-8
This plant is not for everyone, but if you are attracted to the unusual, and think you can handle the brief period of foul smell, you might think about finding a spot in your garden for the voodoo lily.
To find out more about the voodoo lily, go to: http://www.paghat.com/voodoolily.html.