Zantedeschia Spreng.
  • Syst. Veg. 3: 765 (1826) 

Notes: , nom. cons. Distribution: Nigeria to Tanzania and S. Africa

General Description

Terrestrial, acaulescent, perennial herbs with tuberous or rhizomatous stems. Leaves several, radical, rosulate. Petiole with well-developed sheath, lacking apical pulvinus; blade narrowly elliptic, cordate-sagittate or hastate; primary lateral veins excurrent into margins, finer venation striate. Inflorescence appearing with leaves; peduncle erect, longer than petiole. Spathe convolute and obconic basally, widely spreading and broadly ovate apically, cuspidate, white or brightly coloured. Spadix shorter than spathe, basal part pistillate, sometimes with staminodes scattered between pistils, apical part staminate. Flowers unisexual, lacking perigon, densely congested. Stamens free; anthers lateral, dehiscing by apical pores; connective rather slender. Ovary 1–5-locular, each locule with 1–8 axile to subapical ovules. Berries fleshy, few–many-seeded, green or orange. Seeds with abundant endosperm.

HABIT : seasonally dormant, sometimes evergreen (Z. aethiopica) herbs, tuber depressed-globose, or with thick rhizome (Z. aethiopica). LEAVES : several, radical. PETIOLE : spongiose, sheath long. BLADE : lanceolate, narrowly elliptic, cordate, cordate-sagittate, sagittate, hastate, often variegated by aggregations of pale diaphanous necrotic patches; primary lateral veins pinnate, running into distinct marginal vein, secondary and tertiary laterals parallel-pinnate, higher order venation transverse-reticulate. INFLORESCENCE : solitary in each floral sympodium, appearing with leaves. PEDUNCLE : long, subequal or longer than petiole. SPATHE : unconstricted, persistent, pure white, cream, yellow, pink or rosy purple, lower part convolute forming a short, stout, subcylindric to obconic tube, often dark purple within at base, upper part widely gaping, shorter than or subequal to tube, suberect or recurved with somewhat revolute margins. SPADIX : erect, digitiform, shorter than spathe, sessile or stipitate, male and female zones contiguous, fertile to apex. FLOWERS : unisexual, perigone absent. MALE FLOWER : 2-3-androus, stamens free, anthers oblong, somewhat compressed, subsessile, connective truncate at apex, separating thecae, thecae opposite, oblong, dehiscing by apical pore. POLLEN : extruded in strands, inaperturate, ellipsoid to oblong, medium-sized (mean 40 µm., range 31-49 µm.), exine perfectly psilate to obscurely dimpled. FEMALE FLOWER : either a naked gynoecium or rarely (Z. aethiopica) surrounded by whorl of ca. 3 spathulate to clavate and apically truncate staminodes, ovary ovoid, 1-5-locular, ovules (1-)4(-8) per locule, anatropous, funicle short, placenta axile, style short- to long-attenuate, stigma rather small, discoid-subcapitate. BERRY : obovoid or depressed-globose, 1-several-seeded, usually green or orange, rarely yellow and mucilaginous within (Z. aethiopica). SEED : ovoid to ellipsoid, strophiolate, testa costate, embryo axile, elongate, endosperm copious.

Diagnostic Description

Tuberous or shortly rhizomatous geophytes; leaf blade lanceolate to hastate-sagittate, often variegated; peduncle long, sometimes longer than leaves; spathe obconic to campanulate, white, cream, yellow, pink or rosy purple; spadix fertile to apex, male and female zones contiguous; flowers unisexual, perigone absent; stamens free; plants from Southern Africa (naturalized in America and Asia).


Tropical and subtropical damp open habitats; helophytes, seasonally wet places, along streams, swampy ground along forest edges, dry rocky hills.


Nigeria to Tanzania and S. Africa.


Syst. Veg. 3: 756, 765 (1826); Letty in Bothalia 11: 5 (1973), nom. conserv.

Syst. Veg. 3: 765 (1826); Engl., Pflanzenr. 4, 23DC: 61 (1915). Nom. cons.

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
  • Introduced distribution
Found in
  • Africa East Tropical Africa Tanzania
  • South Tropical Africa Angola
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
  • Southern Africa Cape Provinces
  • Free State
  • KwaZulu-Natal
  • Lesotho
  • Northern Provinces
  • Swaziland
  • West Tropical Africa Nigeria
  • West-Central Tropical Africa Cameroon
  • Zaire
Introduced into
  • Africa Macaronesia Azores
  • Canary Is.
  • Madeira
  • Middle Atlantic Ocean St.Helena
  • Northern Africa Algeria
  • Morocco
  • Tunisia
  • Western Indian Ocean Réunion
  • Antarctic Subantarctic Islands Tristan da Cunha
  • Asia-Temperate Western Asia East Aegean Is.
  • Asia-Tropical Malesia Philippines
  • Australasia Australia New South Wales
  • Norfolk Is.
  • South Australia
  • Victoria
  • Western Australia
  • New Zealand New Zealand North
  • Europe Northern Europe Great Britain
  • Southeastern Europe Albania
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Sicilia
  • Yugoslavia
  • Southwestern Europe Corse
  • Portugal
  • Sardegna
  • Spain
  • Pacific North-Central Pacific Hawaii
  • South-Central Pacific Society Is.
  • Southern America Brazil Brazil Northeast
  • Caribbean Bermuda
  • Dominican Republic
  • Puerto Rico
  • Central America Costa Rica
  • Nicaragua
  • Western South America Ecuador


  • 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 S.J. Mayo (1985) Araceae. Flora of Tropical East Africa
  • 3 F.n. Hepper (1968) Araceae. Flora of West Tropical Africa 3(1)
  • 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

Flora of Tropical East Africa (FTEA)
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 2004. eFloras: Iridaceae. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2013-08-02]
  • A All Rights Reserved
  • B
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.
  • C All Rights Reserved
Flora of West Tropical Aftrica (FWTA)
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 2004. eFloras: Iridaceae. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2013-08-02]
  • D All Rights Reserved
  • E
Global Biodiversity Information Facility
  • F All Rights Reserved
eMonocot. (2010, 1st November). Retrieved Wednesday, 8th February, 2012, from
  • G 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
  • H 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.