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Dracunculus vulgaris, dragon arum

Summary

A dramatic, good looking plant but don't stand too close when the flower is ready for pollination.

Family

Araceae

Meaning of the Name

Dracunculus
Latin for a small dragon. Taken from the look of the spadix and spathe which appear to be the tongue of a dragon breathing fire.
 
vulgaris
Commonplace, usually given to the most common species in a genus.

Common Names and Synonyms

dragon arum, dragonwort, wake robin, dragon's tongue, Viagra lily. Sometimes called Arum vulgaris

How Poisonous, How Harmful?

Not a great deal is known about this plant but it is thought to contain fatty acid methyl esters. The root is toxic and a skin irritant. It produces berries like the Arum maculatum but the taste discourages ingestion.

Incidents

Dracunculus vulgaris, dragon arum

Dracunculus vulgaris, dragon arum

Though it appears in Class 'C' of the HTA list of potentially hazardous plants, there are no reported incidents.

Folklore and Facts

One of nature's oddities as it is pollinated by flies not bees. When ready for pollination, the plant produces a smell, described as like rotten meat, to attract the flies but, once pollination is complete, the smell stops.

Carrying the roots or leaves protects against vipers and serpents. It may have been carried on boats to repel sea serpents.

There are widespread erotic connotations resulting from its shape and the newest of its common names indicates that plant folklore and beliefs continue to develop.

It was used to preserve cheese by wrapping the leaves round it.

If you wash your hands in a liquor made from the plant you can handle snakes with impunity.