The Calla Lily is a genus of flowering plants in the family Araceae, native to southern Africa from South Africa north to Malawi. The flower serves as a symbol of Easter and signifies purity and hope, especially the white lily. There are many legends that are related to the flower, and in Roman mythology it is associated with Juno, a daughter of Saturn.
They are rhizomatous perennial plants growing to 2-3 feet tall with a white flower shaped like a funnel with a yellow central spadix. All Calla Lillies produce large, showy flowers and are often grown both as ornamental plants and for cut flowers. Some of its relatives of the plant can survive minimum winter temperatures below zero
Many plants in the family are heat producing. Their flowers can reach up to 100 degrees F even when the surrounding air temperature is much lower. One reason for this unusually high temperature is to attract insects to pollinate the plant, rewarding them with heat energy. Another reason is to prevent tissue damage in cold regions. The eastern skunk cabbage is a related species in the family that also produces heat as well as odor. This is to attract flies to pollinate the plant. The heat produced by the plant helps to convey the scent further.
All species are endemic to Southern Africa. It grows naturally in marshy areas and is only deciduous when water becomes scarce. It grows continuously when watered and fed regularly. The Calla Lily is a very strong and sturdy plant, being able to grow in many soils and habitats, multiplying by rhizome offsets. It is naturalised and regarded as a weed throughout much of the world.
The reason behind the use of lily in the festival of Easter is that it represents purity and it is for this reason it is associated with mother Mary. During the tradition of Easter the Calla Lily is used to honour the resurrection of Jesus and it is for this reason that churches are decorated with white lilies. Lilies also serve as a gift during the festival. It has often been used in many paintings, and is visible in many of Diego Rivera’s works of art.
The species are very poisonous, capable of killing livestock and children. All parts of the plant are toxic, and produce skin rashes. Irritation and swelling of the mouth and throat, acute vomiting and diarrhea occur when it is injested.