Also called green arrow arum and Tuckahoe, this aquatic plant is a member of the arum family, Aracaeae, that also includes Jack in the pulpit, peace lily, and skunk cabbage. It is native to Eastern and southeastern US where it is found growing in swamps and marshes as well as along muddy shorelines of streams and lakes in both bright light and deep shade.
Description: Plants tend to grow in clumps from rhizomes and have arrowhead-shaped medium green leaves up to twelve inches long on long petioles. Tiny greenish-white to greenish yellow flowers appear in spring on a finger-like spadix three to six inches long with male flowers on top, female flowers on the bottom, and sterile flowers in between. Each spadix is surrounded by a yellowish green, leaf-like spathe up to eight inches long and slightly spreading.
Poisonous Properties: All parts of the plant from rhizome, stems and leaves to flower and fruits contain microscopic needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate called raphides that cause severe swelling and a burning sensation in membranes from the eyes, fingers and lips to all parts of the digestive system if swallowed. Large does can cause gastroenteritis and be fatal. Excessive sweating and airway obstruction can result from the burning sensation and contact with fresh juice can cause blistering. In addition, calcium oxalate is the primary constituent of one type of kidney stones. This toxin, however, can be degraded by cooking at temperatures over 200 F as Native Americans did in the past when they used the rhizomes of this plant for food. Another toxin, aroin, affects the nervous system. Fortunately, the plant parts are so acrid tasting that few people eat enough of them to cause serious side effects although children are especially attracted to the berries.