"Calla Lilies" -"Arum Lilies" - notes on word usage

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Sat, 17 Jun 2006 09:03:43 PDT
Dear Jim,

Your note about using botanical names made me smile. I usually use both 
when people in my hiking group ask me a question as most of them do not 
want to learn the botanical names at all. It seems like a lost cause. I 
also have trouble with the use of the word lily. Since so many California 
genera were considered belonging in the Liliaceae family in Jepson all of 
those were referred to by some as lilies (Calochortus to Clintonia to 
Triteleia for instance). I never found that very useful in talking about 
the plants. Some of those genera now are in different families thank 
goodness. And if I give something a common name I've heard when someone 
else knows it by another name they will correct me. I usually respond with 
saying if it's a common name they can call it anything they want, but other 
people may not know what they are talking about.

Here in Northern California where Zantedeschia aethiopica has naturalized 
in wet places as it sounds like it has in Western Australia everyone calls 
them Calla lilies and would have no idea what I was talking about if I used 
the botanical name. I didn't realize people called them Arum lilies until 
on our first trip to South Africa when we asked about flowers in the 
Western Cape near Darling. We wanted to go see some of the reserves where 
there are often wonderful displays of flowers. The woman we talked to at 
the visitors center near there insisted we were too early and would find 
much more to our interest in Cape Town and should move on. We continued to 
explain we were interested in flowers not cities and we knew you could 
drive on some of the farmer's properties to look. Finally she brightened 
and told us when we drove out of town there was a nice patch of Arum lilies 
near some cows and that should be enough to satisfy us. We could stop and 
take a picture. We chuckled as we left intending to find those reserves on 
our own since we don't have to leave California to see such a sight.

In an International list like ours I agree that it is safer for us to use 
botanical names so everyone will know what it is we are talking about.

Mary Sue

Mary Sue Ittner
California's North Coast
Wet mild winters with occasional frost
Dry mild summers 

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