Queen of the underworld
The Voodoo lily possesses special powers
Among flower bulbs, this is the queen of the underworld: the Voodoo lily (Sauromatum venosum). This isn’t just any summer-flowering bulb, but one with truly intriguing aspects... Will you be one of the daring souls to plant the Voodoo lily this spring? A useful hint: buy some clothes pegs, too.
What a ‘fragrance’!
When the Voodoo lily begins to grow in May, it produces a dark brown spadix in front of an upright spathe. A combination of whitish-green and reddish-brown spots gives the spathe a fascinating appearance. Once the spadix is tall enough, the spathe begins to curl. This is when the Voodoo lily wields its secret weapon. To defend yourself, use your own weapon: a clothes peg. The temperature at the bottom of the inflorescence rises - sometimes to even warmer than the surrounding temperature. The heat generates a penetrating odour which attracts flies that will pollinate the flowers. After flowering, the smell disappears and the plant produces a green leaf. Like the spathe, the leafstalks are speckled while the leaf is a bright green.
Watch the magic on your windowsill
The scientific name for the Voodoo lily is Sauromatum venosum. This summer-flowering tuber can flower even without being planted in the soil; it’s as if an African witch doctor has put a magical spell on the tuber to bring it to life. No wonder it became known as the Voodoo lily. This summer-flowering tuber is native to tropical regions of Africa (from Sudan to Malawi and Zambia) but is also found on the Arabian Peninsula and in India. In 1815, the Voodoo lily was brought to Europe as a rare natural curiosity so that now, armed with a clothes peg, we can also behold it today.