Arisaema ciliatum is a confusing species. As I type these notes, I hope it will help me get things straight in my own head, and hopefully help others deal with this species also…
As far as I understand it, the renowned plant hunter, George Forrest, collected an Arisaema and labelled it as Arisaema consanguineum. This was preserved as a herbarium sheet, and it wasn’t until many years later that Li Heng realised it was something different. Consequently, this new species was described from the herbarium sheet, and not living material. Li Heng named the plant Arisaema ciliatum due to the presence of minute cilia, or hairs, along the mouth of the spathe tube. The stoloniferous nature of Arisaema ciliatum was described later by Guy Gusman based on plants with striped inflorescences with ciliated margins – a characteristic not known in Arisaema consanguineum. So, all good – Arisaema ciliatum has a striped spathe, is stoloniferous and has ciliated margins to the spathe tube. If only it were that simple!
In 1991, another Arisaema was collected and distributed under the number CT369. This was also stoloniferous and had a striped spathe, which pointed towards Arisaema ciliatum. However, it had no cilia on the spathe tube. It has now been described as Arisaema ciliatum var. liubaense. So, we are left with a variety of Arisaema ciliatum that doesn’t have the characteristic detailed in the name (ie, ciliatum)!
Confused? Things get more complex – it turns out that other forms of Arisaema ciliatum do not necessarily show cilia either. And to make matters even worse, this species hybridises very readily with other closely related species from section Sinarisaema resulting in a very muddled picture. This hasn’t been helped by garden pollinated (ie – often hybridised) seed distributed by nurseries and through seed exchanges labelled as a true species.
The images below show Arisaem ciliatum var liubaense. Note no cilia on the spathe tube margins.
Arisaema ciliatum has one or two radial leaves arising from the pseudostem, sometimes with long drooping tips, but not always so. The presence of these leaf filaments cannot be used for identification purposes. The spathe colour is variable with greenish and maroon forms being seen.
The tuber is subglobose and stoloniferous, reaching around 5 or 6cm in diameter, rapidly multiplying via underground stolons. These stolons are an important feature in identification.
Seeds and germination:
Seeds can be stored dry with no significant loss of viability. Germination is easy and typically takes around 4 – 6 weeks.