Dracunculus vulgaris, the Voodoo Lily

I find it fitting to follow the post on New Orleans with a post focused on a plant with voodoo in the name!  For those of you who have never been to New Orleans, voodoo is an ever-present part of the culture.  Now… whether or not it is commercialized is another matter.  Walking down the street, you are liable to see something like this;

While we don’t have any local voodoo shops in the Pacific Northwest (at least that I know about) we do have Voodoo Lilies! These very interesting plants are aroids; members of which include philodendrons, taro or elephant ears, anthuriums and even cryptocorynes (for those of you out there who keep planted aquariums).  Voodoo lilies typically inhabit tropical and subtropical climates.  Luckily, the cast of voodoo lilies includes some very atypical species.  Dracunculus vulgaris is a European species that routinely encounters weather much colder than I will ever experience in my garden.  It happens to look very much like it’s tropical cousins, with spotted stems and white-flecked palmate leaves.  The orientation of the leaves gives the plant the appearance of a miniature palm tree, and several of them together look very impressive.  When they flower, the appeal completely changes pace.  If you enjoy the look of the deep velvety maroon spathe and spadix, you’re not alone.  It’s actually difficult to photograph the depth of texture that the flower exhibits (at least for me).

The first thing you notice may be the size and grandeur of the flower, but the next thing you notice will be the aroma.  Using the word ‘aroma’ makes it sound more appealing… but it smells like death.  Maybe stench would be more appropriate.  Imagine for a moment that you had a nice salmon steak for dinner but you left it in the trash can with last week’s chicken giblets for a few days (in the sun on the back deck) before you decided to dig in… that’s what it smells like.  If you are going for an exotic or tropical look, this plant couldn’t be a better choice.  But only if you don’t have neighbors or they don’t have noses anymore.  At a barbecue a few nights ago, everyone could smell the flower once the wind died down and it was pretty powerful even 20+ feet away.  The pollinators for this plant are actually flies and other insects attracted to carrion.


I might as well use this opportunity to post some photos of other red things in the garden.  You don’t read this blog for the words, do you?

Salvia ‘Hot Lips’

Kniphofia ‘Echo Rojo’

Hesperaloe parviflora (Red False Yucca)

Foxglove (Yes, it’s not quite red.  But it’s close enough today)

Echium hybrid, which is a cross between E russicum and E wildpretii.

Lotus maculatus ‘Amazon Sunset’

Abutilon ‘Tiger Eye’ (Another borderline red one. Deal with it)

Today’s parting shot is of Bletilla striata “Big Bob’.  This is my second spring with it in the ground, and it bloomed for me this year.  I don’t have the best luck with orchids, but this hardy terrestrial orchid proved me wrong.

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