Sauromatum is a tuberous genus in the Araceae family with species from tropical Africa to subtropical Asia. After some taxomomists had reached the conclusion (see here) that all the species in Sauromatum belong in the genus Typhonium , recent DNA analysis supports retaining Sauromatum as a separate genus. The species most often grown is Sauromatum venosum or the Voodoo Lily. From the Greek sauros = lizard, as in dinosaur.
Sauromatum venosum, syn. Typhonium venosum is from the Himalayas and southern India. It has a twisted yellow to brown spathe that is spotted deep red or purple internally with a long-protruding, tapering, greenish or maroon spadix. This plant is dormant in winter and flowers in early spring. The first photo is by Bob Rutemoeller of one blooming in the Alpine House at Wisley Gardens in the United Kingdom in May 2004. The remaining photos are by David Pilling; seed was sown in April 2009 and the photos are of all of one plant; 2 to 4 are of a two year old seedling - notice the contractile roots, the final photo shows a new shoot. Many offsets are produced. From the chilly perspective of the North West of England, warmth is needed to initiate growth in Spring; around the start of October the foliage begins to die back.
This set of photos shows the results in 2013 when the largest plant flowered (four years after sowing the seed). The first two photos show the bulb on the 17th April compared to a one pound coin which is about an inch in diameter. Photos 4-6 trace the development of the flower at the start of June as an outer covering parts and peels back.
Compare the photos of the inside of the flower with Arum italicum. Disappointingly there was no smell from the flower. The cream colored band in photo 1 is the source of pollen; the pollen that has fallen through the flower can be seen at the bottom of the flower in photos 1 and 2. Photos 4 and 5 show the remnants of the flower and the appearance of a leaf.
These photos show that the flower appears and dies back before the leaves start to grow. Other bulbs (offsets from the original) only started to grow leaves when the plant that had flowered did. That may mean flowering is triggered at lower temperatures than leaf growth. As the bulb pulls itself downward it takes the seed head with it.
Photo 1 is of the above plant dying back for Winter. Although this may look like wilting, it is how the plants behave when temperatures drop and the days shorten. I store the bulbs dry for the Winter. Photo 2 is of the fruit which came away when gently tugged, shown on a 10 mm grid. Photo 3 shows some seed pods detached and photo 4 their contents; these are not viable seeds and good seed does not look like this. Photo 5 is of the bulb again, somewhat larger than back in April.
The following two photos from Jim McKenney show two phases in the life of this plant. The first shows dry corms which will sprout and bloom Colchicum-like without being planted in soil. When I was a kid, the 5&10 cent stores received small crates of these during the winter for sale as curiosities. The next photo, taken June 9, 2005, shows the plants in the garden. This species is hardy here in zone 7 Maryland. The inflorescence is interesting and even beautiful, especially in groups, but the stench is awful. Unlike some aroids which smell like carrion, this one emits a pervasive reek of rat feces. The name I've used in the file name, Sauromatum guttatum, and the name used above, S. venosum, are synonyms. (guttatum derives from the Latin gutta for spot, venosum means full of veins).
Tubers and seeds Autumn 2009. Photo by Giorgio Pozzi.