Stacks Image 171

Why a Book on Arum?

Because it is probably the most beautiful, stylish and interesting plant we have in the British Isles, with a history stretching back into the origins of Western civilisation and a mythology steeped in the allure of sexuality and our fascination with death. A shaman serpent in plant shape.

Stacks Image 21


Let’s take a walk through the British countryside in the early spring or late summer. Cast your eye under the hedge-bank or into the shade of woodland you pass. Do you see any strange, hooded creatures in the undergrowth or perhaps a procession of tall stems offering up inviting yet threatening clusters of bright red berries? If so you have stumbled upon the most distinctive and unusual plants we have with us in this country.

Even those who seldom venture into nature recognise the Wild Arum the moment they are shown a picture of it. Lords and Ladies is a visually unforgettable and well recognised resident. For many it carries a certain air of danger or mystery. From its sexually suggestive cowls which announce it’s springtime presence to its maces of lipstick-red berries which perch atop slenderously erect green stalks in late summer, it is not surprising that the ‘Gentleman's Finger’ (as it was salaciously known in Wiltshire), has garnered more common names than any other UK plant; over 100 at the last count.

It was on such spring-time walks that I became enamoured with the Wild Arum and fell under its spell. Its distinctive appearance (a family trait), makes Arum a wonderful plant to photograph and initially I viewed the plant as one might view an unusually attractive and stylish looking model. This superficial phase was not to last long. What began as a quick query to learn a smattering of background unearthed such a rich and interesting history that I had to find out the whole story. The result is this website and a new book: Wild Arum: The Secret Life of Lords and Ladies.

Lynden Swift