Lords and Ladies - Arum maculatum

Main features

  • Likes dappled shade

  • Leaves are arrow-shaped with tails

  • The flowers form as a spadix - a large specialised leaf surrounds a spike of small flowers

  • The leaves die back leaving a stalk covered in berries - green at first becoming bright orange/red

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Lords and Ladies - Arum maculatum

Poisnous/irritant plant - novice identification

Other common names: Cuckoo Pint, Jack in the Pulpit, Stallions and Mares, Bulls and Cows, Wake Robin, Toad's Meat, Adder's Meat, Adder's Victuals, Buckrams, Startchwort, Portland Startch, Kings and Queens, Cobbler's Thumb, Kitty-Come-Down-The-Lane-Jump-Up-And-Kiss-Me, Cuckoopintell, Snakeshead, Adder's Root, Arum Lily, Wild Arum, Soldiers Diddies, Priest's Pintle, Bobbins, Adam and Eve, Naked Boys, Naked Girls, Sonsie-Give-Us-Your-Hand, Friar's Cowl, Cheese and Toast, Devils and Angels

 

Scientific name meaning: The origin of "Arum" is much debated, but it is likely to have origins in the Arabic word "Ar", meaning fire. Maculatum is from the Latin "Maculatus", which means to make or be spotted or speckled. The species name is in reference the spots often found on the leaves

Season Late Winter to Autumn

Habitat - where will I find it? As a shade lover, Lords and Ladies is found in woodland, shady gardens, and hedgerows. It is native to Europe and North Africa 

Description - what does it look like? Lords and Ladies begins to appear in late Winter to early Spring as clumps of arrow-shaped leaves. The leaves have rounded tails and often have black/grey spots.

In late Spring, flowers appear in the form of a spadix - a specialised hood-like leaf surrounding a spike of small flowers. 

The leaves die back during summer leaving a spike of green berries turning to bright orange-red.

Possible lookalikes Care must be taken not to confuse the edible Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) with Lords and Ladies. The tails on both plants leaves can be used to differentiate the two, with Common Sorrel having very spiked tails, compared to Lords and Ladies' more rounded tails.

Lords and Ladies also grows in the same area as, and often among, Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum). It is therefore wise to ensure no rogue leaves of Lords and Ladies have ended up in a Wild Garlic harvest. Apart from Wild Garlic's smell, it has parallel leaf veins, while Lords and Ladies has pinnate branched leaf veins.

Italian Arum (Arum italicum) looks remarkably similar, except its leaves have a white veining or marbling to them. It often hybridises with Lords and Ladies. Both plants contain the same irritants

Poisonous parts All parts of the plant contain Calcium Oxalate crystals. These penetrate the skin causing immense pain and irritation. It s particularly painful on the mucus membranes - for example eyes, inner nose, and inside the mouth. 

In severe cases, it could be possible for ingested Lords and Ladies to cause death through asphyxiation. However, the pain caused by eating Lords and Ladies would be enough to prevent most people from consuming a life-threatening quantity.

Despite this, the leaves ​have been eaten after thorough cooking. The roots have also been consumed as a starch-rich tuber again after thorough cooking and repeated water changes. The Foraging Course Company strongly advises against consumption of Arum maculatum

Use in herbal medicine Lords and Ladies has been used to induce sweating and vomiting, and to treat internal parasites. In addition, there are reports of it being used to treat painful throat conditions and rheumatism. 

This plant is a severe irritant
If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Other uses The starch from the root has been used to stiffen clothes

Hazards This plant is a severe irritant

Importance to other species The berries are eaten by birds, which do not react to the Calcium Oxalate crystals in the same way mammals do

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!

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