Curious rather than beautiful relatives of calla (Zantedeschia), attractive both to children and to fanciers of the unusual. Flowers are tiny, crowded on a club- shaped spadix surrounded by an overarching, typically green or dull purple spathe (flower bract) that is often striped in a contrasting color. In late spring, tubers send up one to three leaves, each divided into three or more leaflets. Inflorescences appear on a separate stalk in spring or early summer. As the flowers fade, the spathe withers and the spadix forms orange to red seeds.
These are woodland plants, appreciative of organic material in the soil. Plant in fall, setting tubers 1 ft. apart, 2 in. deep. Plants die to the ground in winter; don't let dormant tubers dry out completely. Species other than those listed below may appear from time to time in specialists' catalogs.
A. fargesii. From China. To 112 ft. high. Between a pair of big, three-part leaves sits a burgundy-red spathe striped with white; the spathe tip curves over and ends in what looks like a mass of red threads. A dark red spadix peeks from the spathe.
A. kishidae 'Silver Pattern'. Selection of a little-known Japanese species. To 2 ft. high. Each leafstalk bears two leaves consisting of seven to nine leaflets marked with a central silver band. The spathe is brownish purple, with a hooded extension curving out to one side. A thin, light brown spadix is barely visible.
A. ringens. From China, Japan, Korea. To 2 ft. high. Inflorescence sits on short stalk between two large, three-part leaves. The spathe is striped purple and white; its tip curls and flares to show off a glossy, purple interior. A white spadix is almost hidden by the spathe.
A. serratum mayebarae. Selection of a Japanese species. To 3 ft. high. Each of the two leaves is divided into 7 to 13 leaflets marked down the middle with a silver streak. A thin stem rises slightly above the foliage, bearing a narrow, purple- and white-streaked spathe with a tip that drapes downward. The spadix is yellow-green.
A. sikokianum. From Japan. To 20 in. tall, with 6-in. leaflets. A 4- to 12-in. stalk supports a 6-in. spathe that is erect rather than arching. Spathe is purplish brown on the outside, yellowish white within; pure white spadix is thicker and rounded at the tip.
A. speciosum. Himalayan native. A single leaf grows to 2 ft., with 8- to 16-in leaflets on a stalk marbled with dark purple. Spathe is blackish purple outside, whitish within, up to 8 in. long; spadix has a long, whiplike tip that can reach 212 ft. in length.
A. tortuosum. Himalayan native. Can reach 4 ft. tall. Leaves have many narrow leaflets. Green or purple spathe to 6 in. long; spadix protrudes from spathe, then curves upward for several inches.
A. triphyllum. JACK-IN-THE-PULPIT. From eastern North America; the common Jack-in-the-pulpit familiar to Easterners. Grows to 2 ft. tall. Both spathe and spadix are green or purple; spathe is striped in white or green.