Calla palustris

Wild Calla Lily

Wild Calla Lily, Calla palustris
Wild Calla Lily
Photo © by Earl J.S. Rook

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods


  • Calla, the European name for the plant, a plant name used by Pliny, perhaps from the Greek, kallos (kallos), "beauty"
  • palustris, from the Latin, paluster, "boggy, marshy"
  • Other common names include Bog Arum, Water Arum, Wild Arum, Dáblík Bahenní (Cz), Kærmysse (Dan), Soovõhk, Seavõhk, Raaked, Arjakõõrikas, Ports, Jooksva-rohi (Est), Vehka (Fin), Lus Buidhe Bealltainn (Gaelic), Schlangenwurz (Ger), Slangewortel (NL), Myrkongle (Nor), Czermien Blotna (Pol), diablik moèiarny (Slovak), Missne, Kalla, Vildkalla, Vild Kalla (Swe)


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
      • Class Liliopsida, the Monocotyledons
      • Subclass Arecidae, the Arum
        • Order Arales, the Arum
          • Family Araceae, the Arum
            • Genus Calla, the Calla Lilies
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 42546


  • A hardy perennial swamp or bog plant, creeping in and out of the water.
  • Leaves glossy, heart-shaped, up to 6" long, rising on 8"-12" stems from long underwater rhizomes. Lateral veins curved-ascending, parallel.
  • Rhizomes creeping at or near surface, elongate, ¼"-1" in diameter
  • Roots adventitious, arising from nodes.
  • Flower a white petal-like spathe, ovate to elliptic, 1"-2½", surrounding a yellow knob-shaped spadix. Spadix on thick short stipe, cylindric, shorter than spathe, apex rounded. [Photo] The spadix contains the true flowers. Often fertilized by snails that laboriously crawl up and down the stems of one flower after another, attracted by a rather unpleasant smell.
    • Sepals absent
    • Petals absent
    • Stamens 6
  • Fruit bright red, pear-shaped berries, 5mm-10mm, covering the spadix in fall
  • Seed brown with dark spots at one end, cylindric, 3mm-5mm.


  • A waterside plant of shallow waters and muddy shores.
  • Distinguished from other native aquatic plants by its glossy leaves and distinctive flower.


  • Circumboreal; Alaska and Canada, south to Maryland, Indiana, Iowa, and North Dakota. Also Eurasia.
  • Common in BWCA along calm shores, ponds, slow moving streams, seepages [Photo, Wild Calla in bloom below Hustler Lake, BWCAW]


  • Bogs, marshes, wooded swamps, and marshy shores of rivers, ponds, and lakes




  • Plants are sometimes sold in aquatic garden catalogs for ornamental plantings in bog gardens.


  • Reproduces by seed and vegetatively by rhizomes
  • Flowers late spring-summer


  • By rhizome division after flowering
  • By seed, separated from the pulpy berries and planted immediately in a moist sphagnum moss and topsoil mix.


  • Hardy to USDA Zone 2 (average minimum annual temperature -50ºF)
  • Cultural Requirements
    • Sun full
    • Soil muddy, acidic (pH of 5.0 to 6.5)
    • Water 2"-6" deep, still (running water disturbs the roots), with the leaves above water level.



  • A favorite of raccoons when planted in the water garden, the Calla is often the first plant to be torn up and/or chewed up by the masked marauders.

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Last updated on 14 April, 2004