Arisaema Mart.
  • Flora 14(2): 459 (1831) 

Notes: Distribution: E. Zaïre to Ethiopia and Tanzania, Arabian Pen. to Sakhalin and Malesia, C. & E. Canada to Mexico

General Description

Erect, seasonally dormant herbs with subglobose tubers (rarely rhizomatous in some Asian species). Leaves radical, 1–3, subtended by several cataphylls; petioles not pulvinate apically; sheaths long, often imbricate to form a pseudostem; blade compound, pedately to radiately divided to base into elliptic to obovate acuminate lobes; primary lateral veins of lobes usually forming inframarginal veins, finer venation reticulate. Inflorescence erect, terminal, solitary, appearing with leaves. Spathe convolute basally into a ± cylindric tube, upper part (limb) expanded, forward-curving or ± erect, acuminate, variously coloured or striped. Spadix unisexual (paradioecious) or monoecious with basal pistillate part contiguous with central staminate part, always with terminal, sterile, smooth appendix of variable shape from clavate to filamentous, usually subcylindric in African species. Flowers unisexual, without perigon. Staminate flowers ± distant, each with 2–5 stamens; filaments connate; anthers free to connate, dehiscing by pores or straight to lunate slits; connective slender. Pistillate flowers congested; ovary unilocular; ovules 1–9; placentation basal; stigma sessile or on short conic style, capitate. Berries fleshy, glossy orange to scarlet, few-seeded, borne in cylindric to conic infructescence. Seeds subglobose; endosperm copious; embryo axile.

HABIT : seasonally dormant or evergreen herbs, small to fairly large, stem usually a depressed-globose tuber producing tubercles or stolons, more rarely a branching, horizontal rhizome. LEAVES : 1-2, rarely 3, cataphylls often attractively mottled and spotted. PETIOLE : sheath usually rather long, imbricate to form a long, usually mottled pseudostem, margins either free or fused from base to apex and then with a fringed, ligulate mouth. BLADE : usually compound, trisect, radiatisect, pedatisect, very rarely simple and ovate, lobes 3-19 or sometimes more, usually lanceolate-elliptic, varying from linear to broadly ovate, elliptic or obovate, sometimes rhomboid, sessile or central leaflet often stalked, margin entire, serrate, erose or coarsely dentate; primary lateral veins of each lobe or division pinnate, forming submarginal collective vein, 1-2 conspicuous outer marginal veins also present, higher order venation reticulate. INFLORESCENCE : solitary, usually appearing with the leaves, sometimes before them, often subtended by conspicuous cataphylls, many species producing male and female inflorescences successively from the same tuber at different seasons (paradioecy). PEDUNCLE : very short to longer than petiole, rarely tuberculate in upper portion (A. scortechinii), sometimes decurved in fruit. SPATHE : marcescent, usually unconstricted, rarely slightly constricted (e.g. A. flavum), lower part erect, convolute into cylindric, often longitudinally striped tube, tube mouth often with revolute to broadly or even grotesquely auriculate margins, blade usually strongly fornicate, sometimes erect, widely expanded to galeate, apex acute to long-acuminate, sometimes drawn into very long filiform, erect or drooping thread. SPADIX : free, unisexual or monoecious, female or monoecious spadices more robust and differing from male in appendix shape and presence of sterile organs, female zone densely flowered, usually conoid, male zone usually laxly flowered and contiguous with female in monoecious inflorescences, sterile terminal appendix erect, procurved or pendent, entirely hidden within spathe to very long-exserted, usually somewhat longer than spathe tube, stipitate or not, cylindric, clavate, rounded, rugose or apically echinate or drawn out into a sometimes very long thread, rarely lacking altogether (A. exappendiculatum), often with a few subulate to filiform projections in basal part, more rarely entirely composed of long filiform projections. FLOWERS : unisexual, perigone absent. MALE FLOWER : 2-5-androus, filaments connate forming synandria, synandria ± distant from one another, sessile to long-stipitate, connective slender, usually inconspicuous, thecae shortly ovoid, dehiscing by short to long slit or pore, sometimes confluent into ± lunate or even circular compound thecae dehiscing by a single slit. POLLEN : very dry and powdery, inaperturate, spherical or subspheroidal, small (mean 22 µm., range 17-39 µm.), spinose. FEMALE FLOWER : ovary 1-locular, ovoid or oblong-ovoid, ovules 3-10, orthotropous, erect, funicle short, placenta basal, style short to attenuate, always narrower than ovary, stigma usually rather small, subhemispheric. BERRY : obovoid to obconic, rounded apically, rarely conical, usually few-seeded, bright red, rarely yellow, glossy. SEED : ovoid to globose, bearing a strophiole, testa hard, rough, light brown, embryo axile, endosperm copious.

Diagnostic Description

Geophytic herbs; leaves usually 1 to 2, blade compound, usually trisect, pedatisect or radiatisect, with reticulate fine venation; spadix with sterile terminal appendix of very variable shape and size; flowers unisexual, lacking perigone; male and female flowers usually appearing in separate inflorescences, sometimes both present in the same inflorescence. Differs from Pinellia in having the female zone free from the spathe, and lacking a transverse septum separating male and female zones.


Temperate, subtropical and upland tropical forest, more rarely savanna, lowland tropical forest (Sarawak), subdesert or montane grassland (up to 4500m alt.); geophytes, forest floor, rocky slopes, rarely in wet places, very rarely epiphytic.


E. Zaïre to Ethiopia and Tanzania, Arabian Pen. to Sakhalin and Malesia, C. & E. Canada to Mexico.


in Flora 14:459 (1831); Engl. in E.P. 73 (IV. 23F): 149 (1920); Robyns & Tournay in B.J.B.B. 25: 395 (1955); Mayo & Gilbert in K.B. (in prep.)

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
Found in
  • Africa East Tropical Africa Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Northeast Tropical Africa Ethiopia
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • West-Central Tropical Africa Burundi
  • Rwanda
  • Zaire
  • Asia-Temperate Arabian Peninsula Oman
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Yemen
  • China China North-Central
  • China South-Central
  • China Southeast
  • Hainan
  • Inner Mongolia
  • Manchuria
  • Qinghai
  • Tibet
  • Xinjiang
  • Eastern Asia Japan
  • Korea
  • Nansei-shoto
  • Taiwan
  • Russian Far East Khabarovsk
  • Kuril Is.
  • Primorye
  • Sakhalin
  • Western Asia Afghanistan
  • Asia-Tropical Indian Subcontinent Assam
  • Bangladesh
  • East Himalaya
  • India
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka
  • West Himalaya
  • Indo-China Andaman Is.
  • Cambodia (Doubtful)
  • Laos
  • Myanmar
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Malesia Borneo
  • Jawa
  • Lesser Sunda Is.
  • Malaya
  • Philippines
  • Sulawesi
  • Sumatera
  • Northern America Eastern Canada New Brunswick
  • Nova Scotia
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward I.
  • Québec
  • Mexico Mexico Central
  • Mexico Gulf
  • Mexico Northeast
  • Mexico Northwest
  • Mexico Southwest
  • North-Central U.S.A. Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Wisconsin
  • Northeastern U.S.A. Connecticut
  • Indiana
  • Maine
  • Masachusettes
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode I.
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • South-Central U.S.A. Texas
  • Southeastern U.S.A. Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • Western Canada Manitoba

Included Species


  • 1 Govaerts, R. & Frodin, D.G. (2002). World Checklist and Bibliography of Araceae (and Acoraceae): 1-560. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • 2 Govaerts, R. (1995). World Checklist of Seed Plants 1(1, 2): 1-483, 1-529. MIM, Deurne.
  • 3 S.J. Mayo (1985) Araceae. Flora of Tropical East Africa
  • 4 Gardens, K.""Royal Bot World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. (2008).
  • 5 Mayo, S.J., Bogner, J. & Boyce, P.C. The Genera of Araceae. (Royal Botanic Gardens Kew: 1997).

 Information From

CATE Araceae
Haigh, A., Clark, B., Reynolds, L., Mayo, S.J., Croat, T.B., Lay, L., Boyce, P.C., Mora, M., Bogner, J., Sellaro, M., Wong, S.Y., Kostelac, C., Grayum, M.H., Keating, R.C., Ruckert, G., Naylor, M.F. and Hay, A., CATE Araceae, 14 Dec 2011 . 17 Dec 2011.
  • A All Rights Reserved
Flora of Tropical East Africa (FTEA)
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 2004. eFloras: Iridaceae. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2013-08-02]
  • B All Rights Reserved
  • C
Global Biodiversity Information Facility
  • D All Rights Reserved
eMonocot. (2010, 1st November). Retrieved Wednesday, 8th February, 2012, from
  • E
  • F Content licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
WCSP 2014. 'World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; Retrieved 2011 onwards
  • G See You may use data on these Terms and Conditions and on further condition that: The data is not used for commercial purposes; You may copy and retain data solely for scholarly, educational or research purposes; You may not publish our data, except for small extracts provided for illustrative purposes and duly acknowledged; You acknowledge the source of the data by the words "With the permission of the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" in a position which is reasonably prominent in view of your use of the data; Any other use of data or any other content from this website may only be made with our prior written agreement.