Voodoo in the Garden

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Voodoo Lily bud

Psst… What’s that thing sticking up among our Delphiniums?

In a couple of days it’s going to unfurl into the bizarre blossom of a Voodoo Lily (Dracunculus vulgaris).

Like our native skunk cabbage, Voodoo Lilies are members of the arum family. Their flowers consist of a spadix with numerous rather small and inconspicuous blossoms surrounded by a spathe. Many of these plants are pollinated by flies and put out a strong odor when they’re in full bloom.

Voodoo Lily among Jerusalem Sage

I’ve been growing Voodoo Lilies for nearly twenty years from a handful of corms I dug up in my dad’s garden the summer before my mom died in 2001. In our mild coastal Pacific Northwest climate they’re reliably hardy and don’t need any winter protection. If you garden in zone 5 or colder you’ll want to dig up your corms and store them for the winter like Dahlias.

Voodoo Lily with Jerusalem Sage

These are truly unique and showy flowers. This year we have them mixed in with Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa) and Delphiniums. We’ve also got a couple more clumps in other places in the garden, but this is the bed that gets all our attention since we view it from our kitchen window.

Voodoo Lily

While I often implore you to stop and smell the flowers, you won’t need to get very close to smell this one. The smell resembles rotting meat, but I don’t find it overpowering. The folks at Missouri Botanical Garden, who have a wonderful online plant database and gallery, suggest you don’t want to plant Voodoo Lilies under a window or adjacent to a path, for obvious reasons.

I wrote previously about this plant in August 2010, but go the name wrong. I confused this aroid with another that my father also grew but that bloomed during the winter on a much taller stalk.

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