Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Not a calla nor a lily

Boy, this plant has some serious identity problem.

The Calla lily is not a true calla and neither is a true lily. It is also commonly referred to as 'Arum' and yet is not a true arum either. So what is it?

Calla lilies belong to the genus Zantedeschia with several recognized species including aethiopica, elliottiana and rehmannii, the three most common. This plant is native to the southern region of Africa and was named after the Italian botanist Giovanni Zantedeschi. As beautiful as it is, this plant is poisonous when ingested raw due to the presence of calcium oxalate in all its parts.

Now that's my short introduction to this plant.

When it comes to plants, I've had many "love at first sight" moments. And this is definitely one of them. This is one of those "must haves" in my long list of plants. I just don't know if they will survive in our farm's local climate. I know they do in the cooler regions like Baguio.

Last February I went home with two packets of the yellow Calla lily, each packet contains two tubers. I gave one packet to my Aunt, who's now helping us propagate some plants in her own garden. And I must say she is having more luck than us. Anyway... The other packet is left in the farm for my Mom. Aside from the tubers we also visited the Manila Seedling Bank and bought several Calla plants.

Seven pots of Calla lilies we bought last February the day before I flew back to the U.S.

From what I've read the white Calla lily thrives in the sun and likes having wet feet. The colored species prefer the opposite, part shady and more dry soil. So I told Mom their contrasting behaviors so she can properly take care of them.

A few weeks after I returned to the U.S., I was informed that the colored ones rotted after they were left exposed to several days of continuous rain. Sigh... The white ones survived. Just this month I learned that of the four whites, only two are still alive. Sigh again...

Now these plants aren't in the farm yet. Currently they are in our small house in one suburb of Metro Manila which is several hundreds of kilometers away from the farm. My mother goes there only when she needs to. Since she cannot bring them all to the farm by herself, with a heavy heart she had to leave them there.

If you must know about our house near the capital, most of the time the house sits empty and in a dilapidated state. The plants there rely on mother nature for nourishment or the infrequent visit of a trusted neighbor to check the place. Just recently it has been burglarized three consecutive times. So now it looks more like a prison, with high walls ringed with rows of barbed wires and bars on all the windows.

So what happened to the two packets of Calla lily I gave to Mom and my aunt?

Last month, Mom said one of the two tubers she planted started to sprout. First a leaf came out (above, left) then a flower but it's not pure yellow though (above, right). Then the other tuber sprouted, flower first and this one's yellow. Those I gave to my aunt also sprouted flowers first and both are yellow.

From these four mother plants, I hope Calla lilies will have a continued presence in the farm. Calla lilies can be propagated by dividing the tubers or by letting the flowers produce seeds. There is no guarantee that they will have the same color of flowers as the mother plant if they were grown from seeds.

A day will come when I'll be moving to the farm for good, if not, then more frequent and longer stays. And I will try my luck with the 'must have' plants that did not survive due to mismanagement or neglect. I hope my vision of a garden full of white and colored Calla lilies will come true someday.
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