Pond Plants: Arrow Arum

Arrow arum is first alphabetically in our list of marginal or bog plants, so that is where we will start our plant palette. There are so many pond plants for our ponds that it's hard to pick just a few. We all need submerged grasses to keep our goldfish ponds clean and healthy and floating plants to keep them shaded and cool in the summer. Then we have dozens of bog plants or marginals to choose from. We can have straight, sticklike plants poking up, soft and lazy leaves that move in the least breeze or exotic plants that eat mosquitoes and flies. Many pond plants are hardy, that is they do not die in winter. They may die back, but they will come back in the spring. All pond plants are weeds, so they grow fast and multiply quickly. As pondkeepers, our biggest plant problem is not keeping plants alive, but keeping them in check. I never fertilize a bog plant because they get all the fertilizer they need from fish waste. If we fertilized our bog plants, they could easily attack us as we sleep.

Arrow arum is a bog plant that grows in swamps and marshes. It makes a great pond plant because it is hardy. It will die back in the winter, but come back in the spring.

It grows in full sun and full shade, so we love the arrow plant for its versatility. We can all grow them in our ponds, no matter where they are. The leaves are usually about a foot long and 6 1/2 inches wide, and can grow on three-foot stalks, making it a great plant for the edge of the pond or in a marginal or bog area.

The leaves are light green with a light, almost white underside with three prominent veins. Although they have a small, light-yellow flower that appears in early spring, we grow them for the foliage, not the unspectacular flower. The spike of the flower is surrounded by a bract, or spathe, like you would see on a calla lily or peace lily.

The arrow arum is generally found in nature in marshes, swamps or bogs, anywhere water moves slowly or where sunlight is filtered or alternates with deep shade.

The seeds develop in the pod and are released in the fall when the pod decays. The seeds float on the surface of the water until they get soaked and then sink. They will germinate and grow into new plants.

Aside from use in our ornamental ponds, arrow arum is used to control erosion with other bog plants like pickerel weed and wild rice because it can absorb wave action.

Wood ducks, muskrats and rails like the fruit and seed, but most other species ignore it. Native Americans dried the Arrow arum, pulverized it and used the flour for making bread. The fruits were cooked and eaten like peas.

Arrow arum grows mainly along the Atlantic coast, but it is spreading. It has been seen in Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota and along the West Coast. It is believed to be spread by migratory birds, but I wonder how much of the spread is from the plant being tossed out of the pond and into the local waterways.

Let's be careful, people. Always compost your extra pond plants. Do not throw them into nearby bayous, lakes or swamps.

I have found the Arrow arum to be a soft plant when used in the pondscape. The stalks of the plant break easily, so it is difficult to move. If it is close to the edge of the pond, any wandering critter can brush against it and break a stalk. The foliage adds so much to the pond, though, that I grow it no matter how soft it is.

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