1. Family: Araceae Juss.
    1. Genus: Sauromatum Schott
      1. Sauromatum venosum (Dryand. ex Aiton) Kunth

        Native to upland areas of Africa and Asia, voodoo lily has flowers that emit a foul smell resembling rotting meat. This odour attracts insect pollinators such as flies. Despite its putrid smell, voodoo lily is popularly cultivated as an ornamental. Its popularity is due in part to it being one of the easiest aroids to propagate and one of the hardest to kill.


    Araceae, S.J. Mayo. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1985

    Tuber depressed-globose, 4–10 cm. in diameter.
    Petiole terete, up to 90 cm. long, green, often black-purple spotted or tinged brownish purple; blade kidney-shaped to subcircular in outline, 25–60 cm. broad, pedately-lobed; lobes 7–11, ovate-elliptic, acuminate, cuneate, deeply divided almost to base; central lobe usually obovate-elliptic, 12–30 cm. long, 5–16 cm. broad; lateral lobes progressively smaller.
    Inflorescence appearing before leaves, with very strong carrion smell at anthesis, subtended by several oblong-lanceolate cataphylls; peduncle short, 2–8 cm. when in flower, subterranean, spathe borne at or partly below ground-level.
    Spathe 25–50 cm. long; tube subcylindric with inflated ellipsoid basal part, 5–10 cm. long, 2–5 cm. in diameter, erect, outside dull purplish green, inside reddish purple, smooth; limb narrowly lanceolate-triangular, 20–40 cm. long, 3–9 cm. broad, reflexing and twisting spirally at maturity, inner surface pale yellow to pale green with numerous dark maroon-purple oblong to subcircular spots that are smaller towards base and merge near crisped-undulate margins.
    Spadix 20–42 cm. long; sterile appendix cylindric, 14–30 cm. long, 0.5–1.6 cm. in diameter, erect at first, later curving forward, smooth, dull greyish green with cream base; staminate part cylindric, 1–1.7 cm. long, 0.5–1.5 cm. in diameter, sulphur yellow; sterile zone with cylindric, longitudinally ridged axis, 3.5–8 cm. long, 0.3–1.2 cm. in diameter, cream becoming purple apically, lowermost 1.5–2 cm. bearing 0.5–0.8 cm. long, horizontal to upward-curving, filiform to clavate, cream, sterile projections, with bluish-green, ± swollen tips; pistillate part cylindric to subconic, 0.7–1.6 cm. long, 0.6–1.4 cm. in diameter.
    Ovary flask-shaped to cylindric, dark reddish-purple; ovules 1–2, pear-shaped, borne on massive basal placental cushion; stigma capitate, cream, 0.5 mm. in diameter.
    Berries obovate, 0.9–1 cm. long, ± 0.8 cm. in diameter, 1–2-seeded, mulberry purple to red, borne at or partly below ground-level in tight subglobose head up to 4 cm. in diameter.
    Seed obovate, 0.7–0.8 cm. long, 0.45–0.55 cm. in diameter; testa fleshy, dark spotted; embryo small, central, cylindric; endosperm copious.
    Fig. 15.

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description

    Native to upland areas of Africa and Asia, voodoo lily has flowers that emit a foul smell resembling rotting meat. This odour attracts insect pollinators such as flies. Despite its putrid smell, voodoo lily is popularly cultivated as an ornamental. Its popularity is due in part to it being one of the easiest aroids to propagate and one of the hardest to kill.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Widely distributed from tropical Africa to China, voodoo lily is reported to occur in various habitats including evergreen forest, riverine forest and wet savannah, mostly in damp or wet areas in the shade.


    Overview: A tuberous perennial with a large, umbrella-like leaf on a brownish-red speckled petiole (leaf stalk) that appears after flowering.

    Flowers: The flowering parts consist of a spathe (hood-like structure) wrapped around a spadix (flower-bearing spike). The large, twisting spathe (up to 1 m long) is yellow to brown with reddish-purple spots. The purple spadix is slightly shorter or the same size as the spathe.

    Fruits: Red to bright purple berries.

    Conservation assessments carried out at Kew

    Sauromatum venosum is being monitored as part of the IUCN Sampled Red List Index for Plants, which aims to produce conservation assessments for a representative sample of the world’s plant species. This information will then be used to monitor trends in extinction risk and help focus conservation efforts where they are needed most.


    Voodoo lily is cultivated as an ornamental. The tubers can be grown indoors as a curiosity; they can flower without soil or water, although the tuber should be planted and fed immediately after flowering if it is to be kept alive.

    The roasted tubers of Sauromatum venosum are eaten locally.

    This species at Kew

    Sauromatum venosum is grown behind-the-scenes in Kew’s Tropical Nursery.

    Dried and alcohol-preserved specimens of Sauromatum venosum are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details of some of these can be seen online in Kew’s Herbarium Catalogue.

    Primary evergreen forests, meadows by rivers, secondary thickets and along the sides of paths.
    Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN Red List criteria.

    Intense irritation can be experienced when handling or consuming raw plant material of many members of Araceae (aroid plant family).


    Araceae, F. N. Hepper. Flora of West Tropical Africa 3:1. 1968

    A geophyte with a, perennial tuber from which arises the short peduncle and purple-spotted spathe and later the single taller petiole with divided lamina 1-2 ft. across
    Fruits bright red
    In shady places in upland.



    Found In:

    Angola, Assam, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Central African Repu, China South-Central, East Himalaya, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gulf of Guinea Is., India, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tanzania, Tibet, Uganda, West Himalaya, Yemen, Zambia, Zaïre

    Common Names

    Voodoo lily

    Sauromatum venosum (Dryand. ex Aiton) Kunth appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Jan 1, 1975 Sanford, W.W. [6245], Cameroon K000390810
    Jan 1, 1975 Bauer, P.J. [166], Cameroon K000390811
    Schweinfurth, G. [1570], Eritrea K000390812
    Schweinfurth, G. [1570], Eritrea K000390813
    Burger, W. [2992], Ethiopia K000390814
    Meyer [7470], Ethiopia K000390815
    Gilbert, E.F. [433], Ethiopia K000390816
    Schweinfurth, G. [489], Eritrea K000390817
    Chandler, P. [2784], Uganda K000390818
    Major, E.J. [580], Kenya K000390819
    Mainwaring [12], Kenya K000390820
    Jack, C. [425], Kenya K000390821
    Tweedie [62], Kenya K000390823
    Tweedie [62], Kenya K000390824
    Tanner, R.E.S. [692], Tanzania K000390825
    Tweedie [62], Kenya K000390826
    Richards, H.M. [8733], Tanzania K000390827
    Polhill, R. [1485], Tanzania K000390828
    Polhill, R. [1485], Tanzania K000390829
    Watermeyer [158], Tanzania K000390830
    Harwood [90], Tanzania K000390831
    Renvoize, S.A. [2101], Tanzania K000390832
    Polhill, R. [1750], Tanzania K000390833
    Polhill, R. [1750], Tanzania K000390834
    Stolz, A. [38], Tanzania K000390835
    Stolz, A. [38], Tanzania K000390836
    Adeleysen, E. [172], Tanzania K000390841
    O'Brien, J. [s.n.], Malawi K000390842
    Salubeni, A.J. [896], Malawi K000390843
    Brummitt, R.K. [15157], Malawi K000390844
    Pawek, J. [13393], Malawi K000390845
    Patel, I.H. [480], Malawi K000390846
    Richards, H.M. [16439], Zambia K000390848
    Fanshawe, D.B. [3003], Zambia K000390849
    Fanshawe, D.B. [3003], Zambia K000390850
    Angus, A. [441], Zambia K000390851
    s.coll. [4408], India K000390853
    s.coll. [4408], India K000390854
    s.coll. [4408], India K000390855
    s.coll. [4408], India K000390856
    Collett, H. [323], India K000390857
    Collett, H. [667], India K000390858
    Collett, H. [s.n.], India K000390859
    Gamble, J.S. [4661], India K000390860
    Gamble, J.S. [4661], India K000390861
    Rich, H.H. [469], India K000390862
    Gamble, J.S. [6242], India K000390863
    Aitchison [15], India K000390864
    Ward, F.K. [8181], India K000390868
    Jarrett, F.M. [736], India K000390869
    Jarrett, F.M. [736], India K000390870
    E.M.R. [1290], India K000390871
    s.coll. [s.n.], India K000390872
    D.H. [803], India K000390873
    Barnes, E. [39], India K000390874
    Barnes, E. [39], India K000390875
    Barnes, E. [39], India K000390876
    Barnes, E. [1553], India K000390877
    Barnes, E. [1552], India K000390878
    Barnes, E. [1617], India K000390879
    Strachey, R. [10], India K000390880
    Duthie, J.F. [s.n.], India K000390881
    Schafer, H. [376], India K000390882
    Rich, H.H. [469], India K000390883
    Rich, H.H. [469], India K000390884
    Rich, H.H. [469], India K000390885
    Aitchison [s.n.], India K000390886
    Aitchison [16], India K000390888
    J.J. [s.n.], India K000390889
    Woodrow, G.M. [s.n.], India K000390890
    Gamble, J.S. [22854], Pakistan K000390891
    Deane, H. [178], Pakistan K000390892
    Aitchison [268], India K000390893
    Aitchison [15], India K000390894
    Aitchison, J.E.T. [154], Pakistan K000390895

    First published in Enum. Pl. 3: 28 (1841)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] Darbyshire, I., Kordofani, M., Farag, I., Candiga, R. & Pickering, H. (eds.) (2015) The Plants of Sudan and South Sudan . Kew publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [2] (2012) Flora Zambesiaca 12(1): 1-54. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [3] (2010) Flora of China 23: 1-515. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis
    • [7] (2006) Scripta Botanica Belgica 35: 1-438

    Synonym in:

    • [8] Govaerts, R. & Frodin, D.G. (2002) World Checklist and Bibliography of Araceae (and Acoraceae) . The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew [Cited as Typhonium venosum.]


    • [4] World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2010). Sauromatum venosum. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [5] Thacker, H. (2009). Sauromatum venosum. Assessment using IUCN Categories and Criteria 3.1 (IUCN 2001). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [6] Mabberley, D. J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-book: a Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses. 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
    • [9] Huxley, A., Griffiths, M. & Levy, M. (eds) (1999). The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening, Volume 4 (R to Z). Macmillan Reference, London.
    • [10] A.D.Q. Agnew, Upland Kenya Wild Flowers p. 705, 706 (1974).
    • [11] Hepper in Flora of West Tropical Africa, ed. 2, 3: 116 (1968).
    • [12] Hepper in Kew Bulletin 21: 492 (1968)
    • [13] Kunth, Enum. Pl. 3: 28 (1841).
    • [14] enum. Pl. 3: 28 (1841).


    Flora of Tropical East Africa
    Flora of Tropical East Africa
    [A] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

    Flora of West Tropical Africa
    [B] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2017). Published on the internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp
    [C] See http://kew.org/about-kew/website-information/legal-notices/index.htm You may use data on these Terms and Conditions and on further condition that: The data is not used for commercial purposes; You may copy and retain data solely for scholarly, educational or research purposes; You may not publish our data, except for small extracts provided for illustrative purposes and duly acknowledged; You acknowledge the source of the data by the words "With the permission of the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" in a position which is reasonably prominent in view of your use of the data; Any other use of data or any other content from this website may only be made with our prior written agreement. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
    [D] © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles
    [F] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0