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Calla palustris (Water arum)
Smith, R.W.

Calla palustris

Calla palustris L.

Water Arum, Water-dragon, Wild Calla

Araceae (Arum Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N)

The 5-12 in. water-dragon or wild calla has fleshy, jointed stalks and heart-shaped leaves on upright stems. The flowers are white with a hint of green, on a round spadix. Growing in water among oblong heart-shaped leaves, is a broad white spathe around a spadix covered with tiny yellow flowers. A bright white, elliptic spathe partially surrounds the spadix. The spathe/spadix is held on a 4-5 in. stem above forking, creeping, partially exposed rootstocks. The fruit is a red berry.

This perennial, a more northerly species than the other arums in the East, is also found in Eurasia. It is very showy when in flower and, later, when bearing its fruit. The genus name Calla, its meaning uncertain, was used by Pliny; the species epithet palustris means "of marshes."


From the Image Gallery

8 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Fruit Type: Berry
Size Notes: Up to about 1 foot tall.
Fruit: Red

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug


USA: AK , CT , IA , IL , IN , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , ND , NH , NJ , NY , OH , PA , RI , VT , WI
Canada: NB , NS , ON , PE
Native Distribution: Que. to Alt., s. to MD, n. IN & MN
Native Habitat: Cool, shaded swales and bogs where water is stagnant

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
Aquatic: yes
Soil Description: Shallow water or slightly acid, wet soil.
Conditions Comments: A light mulch is necessary in extremely cold, snowless winters. Wild calla will not survive a dry spell.


Use Food: EDIBLE PARTS: Dried berries are edible. Dried seeds and rootstocks can be made into a flour, but used only in times of need. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)
Warning: POISONOUS PARTS: All parts. Causes severe pain in mouth if ingested. Symptoms include burning and swelling of lips, mouth, tongue, and throat; difficulty of speaking. Toxic Principle: Calcium oxalate crystals. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes


Description: Pulp-free seeds may be planted in muck as soon as they are ripe. Seedlings will bloom in a few years. Cutting taken in July and set in a peat-muck rooting medium give fair results. Moisture must be constantly available.
Commercially Avail: yes

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Calla palustris in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Calla palustris in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Calla palustris


Record Modified: 2023-01-30
Research By: TWC Staff

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