Zantedeschia aethiopica

Common Name(s)

arum lily


Zantedeschia aethiopica (L.) Spreng.



Brief Description

Evergreen clump forming plant with large arrowhead shaped leaves ( up to 45 cm long and 25 cm wide) and pure white funnel shaped flowers (up to 25 cm long) with a bright yellow narrow sausage shaped centre (actually the flowers, the white part is a modified leaf).

Flora Category

Vascular - Exotic

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Monocotyledonous Herbs


Scattered throughout northern North Island, less common in southern North Island and northern South Island.


Swampy areas, often under willows and damp pasture and waste land.


Robust, evergreen, erect, clump-forming, to 1.5 m high, in close-set tufts from a tuberous rootstock with white fleshy roots; new tubers arising from shoots on the rootstock. Leaves large, leathery; laminae sagittate or ovate-cordate, 15-45 × 10-25 cm, dark green, the very fine veins somewhat lighter green, shining, entire, tip apiculate, margins undulate; petiole 40-100 cm long, lighter green, spongy, white on inside, purplish on outside. Scape ± = leaves, green, stout. Spathe ivory-white, bright green at base on outside, to 25 cm long, funnel-shaped, narrowed towards tip with a recurved apiculus to 2 cm long. Spadix ± ½ spathe, bright yellow; basal female zone, with staminodia interspersed, c. ¼-½ length of spadix, contiguous with upper male zone; sterile terminal appendage 0. Berries green or yellow, to ± 1 cm diam.

Similar Taxa

Unlike most other wetland plants, but two other large plants in the arum family are superficially similar. Taro (Colocasia esculenta) and elephant ear (Alocasia brisbanensis) also have large leaves but arum can be distinguished by the veins of the leaf being the same colour as the rest of the leaf and the spathe being white


October to December

Flower Colours



Summer to autumn

Year Naturalised



South Africa

Reason for Introduction

Ornamental plant

Control Techniques

Can be controlled manually, mechanically or herbicidally depending on situation.

Life Cycle and Dispersal

Perennial. Seeds dispersed by water movement, birds and other animals. Local clonal spread by rhizomes, with longer distance spread by water movement, deliberate planting and garden discards.


Tolerates wet (drought-resistant once established), wind, salt, hot to cold, most soil types, mod shade.

Poisonous plant

When ingested this species causes burning of the mouth and alimentary canal. It also causes stomach pains and vomiting.


Prepared by Paul Champion and Deborah Hofstra (NIWA). Features description taken from Croasdale et al. (1994).

References and further reading

Croasdale, H., Flint E. A. and Racine, M. M. (1994).  Flora of New Zealand Volume 3: Freshwater algae, chlorophyta, desmids with ecological comments on their habitats, Staurodesmus Staurastrum and the Filamentous desmids. Manaaki Whenua Press: Lincoln, New Zealand.

Weeds of Australia (http://keyserver.lucidcentral.org/weeds/data/03030800-0b07-490a-8d04-0605030c0f01/media/Html/Zantedeschia_aethiopica.htm)

Johnson PN, Brooke PA (1989).  Wetland plants in New Zealand.   DSIR Field Guide, DSIR Publishing, Wellington. 319pp.

Popay et al (2010).  An illustrated guide to common weeds of New Zealand, third edition.  NZ Plant Protection Society Inc, 416pp.


This page last updated on 21 Aug 2013