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Araceae (Arum lily family)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Monocotyledons > Order: Alismatales

About 106 genera and about 4025 species, native mainly to the tropics and subtropics, but also with some species in temperate regions; especially diverse in New World tropics. Ten genera and 33 species are native to southern Africa, two genera and two species is naturalised, and a further 16 genera and 39 species are cultivated in the region. The Lemnaceae has been synonymised with the Araceae and previous members of this family are included here. They are all aquatic plants with small floating leaves and tiny flowers.

Genera native to southern Africa

Information from Singh (2000), Plants of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI), Flora of Zimbabwe and Flora of Mozambique.

Amorphophallus

About 150 species, found throughout the Old World tropics, with three species native to southern Africa and a further species that is cultivated in the region. The genus includes Amorphophallus titanum (Titan arum) from Sumatra, which holds the record as the plant with the largest unbranched inflorescence in the World, with a record height of 2.94 m (see Wikipedia).

Culcasia

Twenty species, mainly occurring in the rainforests of western and central Africa. One species is recorded in Zimbabwe - Culcasia falcifolia and there is a record of Culcasia scandens from Gorongoza in Mozambique

Gonatopus

Five species, found in tropical and southern subtropical Africa, with four species native to southern Africa, occuring in the northeastern regions.

Lemna

Thirteen species worldwide of which three are native to southern Africa. Previously placed in the Lemnaceae.

 

Spirodela

Two of the three species are native to southern Africa. Previously placed in the Lemnaceae.

 

Stylochaeton

About 15 species, native to tropical and southern subtropical Africa, with three species native to southern Africa.

Wolffia

Three species native to southern Africa. Previously placed in the Lemnaceae.

 

Wolffiella

Nine species worldwide, with four species native to southern Africa.

 

Zamioculcas

The only species is Zamioculcas zamiifolia (Fern arum), which has a native distribution that includes Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal).

Zantedeschia

Eight species, all of which are native to southern Africa. 

Zantedeschia aethiopica

Genera naturalised in southern Africa

Information from Singh (2000) and Plants of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI)

Colocasia esculenta (Taro, Cocoyam, or in Zulu 'Amadumbe')

Native to tropical eastern Asia. Grown as a staple food, including in southern Africa, where it was probably introduced by Portuguese traders before 1500. It is an occasional escape in Zimbabwe, particular along watercourses in arid areas.

Pistia

One species, the Water Lettuce Pistia stratiotes, found worldwide in warm regions, and a naturalised weed in southern Africa. It is a declared Category 1 invasive plant in South Africa.

Other genera, cultivated in southern Africa

List from Glen (2002). Acorus was previously placed in the Araceae but now is placed in its own order (Acorales) and family (Acoraceae).

Aglaonema

About 20 species, native to the tropical forests of Asia. Grown particularly as pot plants. Two species are cultivated in southern Africa: Aglaonema commutatum and Aglaonema crispum (latter native to the Philippines)

Alocasia

About 70 species, found in tropical forests and damp, shady places in S and SE Asia. Five species are cultivated in southern Africa.

Anthurium

About 700-900 species found in wet mountain forests of tropical and subtropical North and South America. Five species are cultivated in southern Africa.

Arisaema

About 150 species, from moist woodland and rocky wasteland in Asia and North America. Two species cultivated: Arisaema dracontium and Arisaema triphyllum, both of which are native to eastern Canada and the USA.

 

Arisarum vulgare (Friar's cowl)

Native from the Mediterranean to the Azores.

 

Arum

About 26 species, distributed in S Europe, N Africa and W Asia to the W Himalayas. Two species are cultivated in southern Africa: Arum italicum (Italian lords-and-ladies) (native from the Canary Islands to Cyprus) and Arum palaestinum (native to Israel). Other species in the Araceae are referred to by their common names as arums, e.g. Zantedeschia aethiopica.

 

Caladium bicolor

Native to northern South America.

 

Dieffenbachia seguine (Dumb cane)

Native to tropical America.

 

Dracunculus vulgaris (Dragon Arum)

Native from Corsica to Turkey.

 

Epipremnum pinnatum (Money plant)

Native from Malaysia to New Guinea.

 

Monstera deliciosa (Delicious Monster)

The Delicious Monster is widely cultivated in gardens and is so called because the ripe fruit can be eaten. Eating the unripe fruit is not recommended because it contains calcium oxalate crystals.

Montrichardia linifera

Native to northern South America.

 

Philodendron

About 500 species, native to the Americas, mainly in rain forest. Eight species are cultivated in southern Africa.

Spathiphyllum

A total of 36 species, native to tropical regions of Indonesia, the Philippines and the Americas. Often grown as indoor plants. Three species are cultivated in southern Africa.

Syngonium

About 33 species, native to Central and South America. Two species are cultivated in southern Africa: Syngonium macrophylla (native from Mexico to Ecuador) and Syngonium podophyllum (native from Mexico to Bolivia).

 

Typhonium

About 40 species, native to SE Asia, Indomalesia, northeastern Australia and Africa. Two species are cultivated in southern Africa: Typhonium blumei (native to China and Japan) and Typhonium venosum (Voodoo lily) [= Sauromatum venosum] (native to the Old World tropics, from West Africa to Burma. Inflorescences have a foetid smell).

 

Characteristics (excluding genera previously in Lemnaceae)

Flowers

The following characteristics distinguish members of the Araceae from other families:

  • they have an inflorescence termed a spadix consisting of small closely packed flowers arranged round a swollen, fleshy column.
  • the spadix has a (usually) large, petal-like bract wrapped round its base termed a spathe.

Some species have separate male and female (i.e. unisexual) flowers (e.g. Arum Lily Zantedeschia aethiopica) while in other species male and female parts are combined in one (i.e. bisexual) flower (e.g. Anthurium, Monstera). In species with unisexual flowers, the male flowers are at the top and the female flowers at the bottom of the spadix.

Leaves

  • simple or compound
  • venation parallel, pinnate or palmate
  • the petiole of the leaf has a membranous sheathing base.
  • the leaves of the Delicious Monster Monstera deliciosa have large holes in them.

Roots

Adventious

Fruit

A berry, i.e. a fleshy fruit without a stony layer containing one to many seeds.

Publications

  • Bogner, J. & Nicolson, D.H. 1991. A revised classification of Araceae with dichotomous keys. Willdenowia 21: 35-50.

  • Brickell, C. (ed.) 1996. The Royal Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. Dorling Kindersley, London.

  • Glen, R.P. 2000. Lemanceae. In: Seed Plants of Southern Africa (ed. O.A. Leistner). Strelitzia 10: 640-641. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

  • Glen, H.F. 2002. Cultivated Plants of Southern Africa. Jacana, Johannesburg.

  • Mayo, S.J. 1985. Araceae. Flora of Tropical East Africa: 1-71.

  • Mayo, S.J., Bogner, J. & Boyce, P.C. 1997. The Genera of Araceae. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

  • Walters, S.M. et al. (eds). Araceae. In: European Garden Flora 2: 75-112.

  • Singh, Y. 2000. Araceae. In: Seed Plants of Southern Africa (ed. O.A. Leistner). Strelitzia 10: 578-580. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

  

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