Calla palustris : Wild Calla


Scientific Name:

Kingdom: Plantae


Class: Monocoteldonae (one seed-leaf)

Family: Araceae (Arum Family Family)

Genera: Calla (Water-arum) (Gk. kalos= beautiful)

Species: palustris (Lat. marsh loving from palus= marsh)

English Name(s):

Wild Calla, Water-arum

First Nation Names:

Araceae (Arum Family): Family Triats


Minute flowers on a fleashy stalk.

In many genera flowers are surrouded by a large coloured leaf called a "spath".

Natural History:

Plants ussually semi-aquatic or found near water.

Some common house plant come fro mthis family such as; Philodendron, dieffenbachia, Alocasia, Anthurium.

Family Size:


Genera: 115

Species: 2000

North America:

Genera: 8

Species: 10-20


Genera: 1

Species: 1

Central Yukon:(CYSIP study area)

Genera: 1

Species: 1



  • Each leaf and each spadix (flowering spike) on its own stalk arising from rhizome.
  • Plant with a fleashy rhizome (horizontal stem) rooting at nodes.


  • Leaf viens longitudinal not parallel as are most monocoteldons.
  • Leaves Cordate(heart) shaped, on long petiole (stalk) about 10-35cm high.

Reproductive Parts:

  • Flowers in a spadix (flowering spike) sourounded by a showy pure white spathe (specialized leaf).
  • FLowers mostly perfect(bisexual) though upper most ones sometimes unisexual with only male parts.


  • Berries not edible.
  • Spadix (flower spike) swelling, at first green then rippening to a bright red few seeded berry.

Not to Be Confused With:

  • This plant is very distinctive. Connot be mistaken for any other.



  • Herbaceous
  • Plant contains crystals of calcium oxalate especially in the rhizome. This makes it dangerous to ingest.
  • Plant fleashy with acrid watery juice.

Life Cycle:

Seasonal Cycle:


Animal Uses:

  • Berries are eaten by animals.


  • Shallow waters of marshes, ponds, fens, streams, and wet boggy areas.






    • Wild Calla should be used with great caution. It will cause burning and irritation when chewed or ingested. The plant contains calcium oxalate crystals which could cause death.

    Traditional Gwich'in:





            Traditional Other:


            • It was said that folk could handle rattlesnakes with impunity after wetting ones hands with the milky juice as it is a poison to snakes.
            • The Meskwaki are said to have chopped the root and put it in the food of thier enimies. This would cause great pain and possibly death.
            • To know the fate of the sick, the seed with the pulp removed was dropped in a cup of water. If it went around 4 times before dropping the patient would live if not they would die. (Meskwaki)



              • Fresh roots much diluted in milk, molasses or sugar were said to relieve gas, stomach cramps, asthma, and TB.
              • Powdered roots were taken to relieve spasm associated with asthma or were applied as a poultice to reduce swellings.
              • Roots were also grated into cold water and taken internaly for complaints of the bowels.
              • Roots were dried and used to treat coughs, fever, typhoid, rhumatism, pains in the breast and persistently congested nose and sinuses.
              • The seeds were said to contain all the properties of the roots but at twice the strength.


              • Scandinavians apparently used the stems, roots and berries for food inspite of acrid taste and calcium oxilate crystals.
              • The roots and stems were were roasted, dried, and ground into flour for bread or shredded and boiled with venison.


              Typical leaves arising from rhizome

              Leaves side view

              Spadix (flower spike) with white spathe (specialized leaf).

              Spadix (flower spike) going to seed.

              Berries ripening.

              Spadix (flower spike) relative to leaf

              Plant with spadix

              Illustration from: Illustrated Flora of BC

              Range Maps

              World Range: Circumpolar; In N.A. from NL to AK south to FL, and TX. Yukon/Alaska population separate from rest o

              Prov/State Abrev. List

              In Yukon: Yukon population contiguous with Alaskan population but separate from the rest of N.A. population. N

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