Cover image for Aroids : plants of the Arum family
Aroids : plants of the Arum family
Bown, Deni.
Personal Author:
Second edition.
Publication Information:
Portland, Or. : Timber Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
392 pages, 76 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QK495.A685 B68 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Originally published in 1988 as the first truly comprehensive review of one of the largest and most popular plant families, Aroids was enthusiastically welcomed by botanists and horticulturists alike for its attention to scientific detail and delightful writing style.

Now in this completely updated second edition, we learn of discoveries made in the last decade as the family has grown from about 2500 species to nearer 3200. The latest taxonomic and nomenclatural revisions are noted in the checklist of genera, and all the original drawings are included plus twice as many color photos. A new guide to the cultivation of ornamental aroids completes this well-rounded introduction to a remarkable family.

Author Notes

Deni Bown is a well-known botanical and horticultural writer and photographer

Reviews 1

Choice Review

If one set out to look for a plant family where one could discuss fascinating aspects of classification, biology, history, and economic botany, the Araceae (the Arum family) would be one of the principal candidates. Bown has here brought together many interesting and sometimes bizarre facts, which introduce readers to the wide range of diversity in the family. Fine-colored photographs and line drawings accompany clearly and enjoyably written chapters. Groups of species are segregated into chapters based on their habitats (woodland, aquatic, tropical forest floor, etc.); there are also chapters on the giant tuberose species of the tropics and Aroids used as food plants. There are also discussions of morphology and reproduction, a chapter on the chemistry of aroids, and a useful checklist of genera with indications of distribution, habit, and ecology. This readable, semi-popular guide has no competitor in the field--it brings together in a coherent fashion information from the scientific literature and from Bown's personal experience. For the Aroid grower, the beginning student, or simply the curious reader, the book should provide interesting, informative, and accurate information on this delightful plant family. -D. H. Pfister, Harvard University



A very odd little aroid, Arisarum proboscideum, has an appendix that mimics the appearance of a fungus. While several arisaemas are pollinated by fungus gnats and invite their visitors by giving out mushroomy smells, none are known to go to this extreme. Commonly known as the mouse plant, A. proboscideum is popular in cultivation for its spathes, which have brown tails about 7 in. long that protrude above the dense mass of glossy sagitate leaves, looking as if a family of mice has just dived for cover. The species is found wild in woods in Italy and Spain, but not in Albania as stated in Cecil Prime's Lords and Ladies. The confusion probably arose from a collection in the herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; made in 1867 and labelled In montibus Albanis, the specimen came from the Alban hills southeast of Rome.The inflorescences are on pale stalks about 6 in. tall and are held slightly inclined towards the ground. The lower portion of the spathe forms a tube 2-3 in. long with a slightly velvety brown hood and a white base. The only opening is a small hole beneath the point where the hood marrows into the elongated curve of the tail. To appreciate this inflorescence fully, it is necessary to cut away one side. Inside is the crooked spadix with a few female flowers at the base and a larger number of male flowers above. Then, fitting exactly into the hood of the spathe, is the whites spongy appendix, a perfect replica of the underside of a fungus. Its faint mushroomy scent attracts female fungus gnats. Once inside the inflorescence the insects are stimulated to lay their eggs by the appearance and humidity of the imitation fungus. The eggs are deposited in the cavities of the spongy tissies, and the larvae subsequently hatch, only to starve on the fake food. After egg-laying, the gnats enter the spathe chamber by either falling into it or being guided downwards by the bright refractive base. As they struggle to escape they drop any pollen they may be carrying from a previously visited inflorescence and pick up a new load before they leave.The flowering of this cunning little aroid is timed to coincide with the first springtime generation of gnats. The insects are compelled to breed when few real fungi can be found, so that their desperate search for somewhere to lay their eggs they are readily taken in by this aroid's enticing guise. Such behaviour has earned the inflorescences the description of "parasites on the ecosystem" (Vogel 1973). This strange case of mimicry was first described in 1891 by an Italian botanist who referred to Arisum proboscideum as "the most peculiar herb in Europe" (Arcangeli 1891). Excerpted from Aroids: Plants of the Arum Family by Deni Bown All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Peter C. BoyceSimon Mayo
Foreword to the Second Editionp. 9
Foreword to the First Editionp. 11
Prefacep. 15
Acknowledgementsp. 17
Introductionp. 23
1 Variations on a Theme: What are aroids and where do they grow?p. 29
2 Of Tails and Traps and the Underworld: Mechanisms of reproductionp. 53
3 Woodlanders: Species of temperate woodland and higher altitudes of the tropics and subtropicsp. 75
4 Aquatics and Amphibians: Species of wetlands and waterp. 97
5 A Place in the Sun: Species of arid and seasonally dry regionsp. 129
6 In the Shadows: Species of the tropical rainforest floorp. 155
7 Towards the Light: Tropical climbers and epiphytesp. 187
8 The Titans: Giant tuberous species of the tropicsp. 223
9 An Acquired Taste: Aroids as food plantsp. 247
10 Acids and Crystals: The chemistry and toxicity of aroidsp. 275
Aroids in Cultivationp. 301
Checklist of Aroid Generap. 339
Glossaryp. 345
Referencesp. 353
Indexp. 373