Native to sand forests and deciduous forests of eastern and southeastern Africa, this herbaceous perennial is a member of the arum family, Araceae, that also includes peace lily, jack-in-the-pulpit, and elephant ear. The plant grows 3-4′ tall from a turnip-like tuber and has a thick fleshy stalk with a knee-like swelling in the middle and a solitary, tripinnate, mottled leaf consisting of leaflets 1 1//4 to 3″ long. In late spring to early summer 1-5 inflorescences appear and consist of a spathe 6-12″ long and a creamy-yellow spadix bearing the flowers. The unique appearance of giraffe’s knees makes it a good choice in a tropical garden, in a container, and as a houseplant. The genus name, Gonatopus, comes from the Latin word gonu, meaning knee. The specific epithet, boivinii, honors Louis Hyacinthe Boivin (1808-1852), a French botanical collector in East Africa, Madagascar and the Mascarenes.

Type: Tender herbaceous perennial

Bloom: Spathe and spadix in late spring to summer

Size: 3-4′ H x 16″ W

Light: Bright light, filtered shade

Soil: Fertile, consistently moist, well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 10-11

Care: Remove leaf and inflorescence after blooming and store tuber in dry cool place.

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Leaf cuttings, division, offsets, seed (remove from berry which contains chemical that inhibits germination)

Companion Plants: Bird of paradise, bougainvillea, angel’s trumpet

Outstanding Selections: none available

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

By Karen