By Julie Etra
Zantedeschia aethiopica, Calla Lily. The famous lily seen is so many of Diego Rivera’s paintings is actually native to southern and east Africa and is not a true lily at all but a member of the Araceae family. It was named in honor of the famous Italian botanist Giovanni Zantedeschi (plants are generally named after a person, and not necessarily the botanist that first described the plant, or according to their anatomy and description). The white ‘petal’ is a bract, or modified leaf, and the flower is actually the fleshy part that resides inside the bract and is called a spadix. Although Victoria’s Dictionary of Flowers says is symbolizes ‘modesty’, in Australia it has been classified as a toxic weed and pest. All parts of the plant are poisonous due to the presence of calcium oxalate. It likes about 60% humidity and therefore grows well in the Sierra Sur. It is important to plant the bulb at the correct depth so it has enough moisture and can root, and if planted too deeply can be subject to bacterial infections. It is too hot along the Oaxacan coast for this plant but it is obviously cultivated in the Sierra and is readily available as a cut flower from many of the florists and street vendors in La Crucecita when brought down from the mountains.
Alstroemeria aurantiaca, lily of Peru” or “Lily of the Incas, is native to the Andes of South America and was named in honor of the Swedish botanist Claus von Alstroemer who collected seeds of the plant during his trip to South America. It too is not a lily but resides in its own family, Alstroemeriaceae. Although Victoria’s Dictionary of Flowers and other web sites indicate the lovely flower symbolizes devotion and friendship, it is also toxic, and care should be taken when cutting stems as the ‘juice’ can be irritating to the skin. I doubt they would do well here due to the heat. They require full sun or part shade, well drained light soils, good irrigation, and moderately wet soils. The have good resistance to the cold. Although they have beautiful long-lasting flowers, some varieties can be invasive depending on where they are cultivated.
Agapanthus africanus, African Lily, Lily of the Nile, is in the Amaryllidaceae family. According to Victoria’s Dictionary this lovely flower symbolizes a Love Letter. It is native to South Africa and is found from the Cape of Good Hope to the Limpopo River. It was the first Agapanthus species to be collected in South Africa, being first described in 1679 and initially named Hyacinthus africanus tuberosus. It was introduced to Europe as an ornamental plant the 17th century. The name Agapanthus is derived from Greek, literally meaning love flower. It is pollinated by wind, bees, and birds with the seed dispersed by the wind. It is also adapted to periodic fires. African lilies can be invasive when not planted in the correct place, and in New Zealand some species are considered weeds. In colder regions the bulbs should be placed deeper in the soil and mulched well in the fall. It grows well in a variety of soils but they need to be well drained and fertile. Agapanthus can be propagated by dividing the bulbs or by seeds. This plant is commonly seen in the Sierra, and can be purchased in the market in Pluma Hidalgo as well as occasionally in La Crucecita.