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Lillies and Spencer's Asparagus in my Neighborhood

Through our new virtual programming series, Nature in your Neighborhood, we challenged volunteers to go out into their neighborhoods or backyards to see what plants sparked their interest. Whether plants are native or non native, we can all appreciate a connection to nature and the curiosity that it can spark!


By: Rachana Aluri


Calla Lilies

Calla lilies are said to come from the ancient god Hera, the wife of Zeus. In the story, Zeus brought Hercules to nurse from his wife while she was sleeping. He wanted his son to have the strength of the gods. Hera awoke and pushed the baby away from her. Drops of milk flew across the sky creating the milky way and everywhere they landed on earth, calla lilies bloomed.


Calla lilies are native to the modern-day region around South Africa and Malawi.


They were first cataloged in the 18th century by a Swedish botanist who mistakenly named the species calla lily. Calla lilies are not lilies at all. They are actually part of the Araceae family, along with the caladium and philodendron. Not long after, a German botanist realized the error and created the genus Zantedeschia, but it was too late and the name calla lily stuck.


Calla lilies are very toxic and should not be ingested. The underground stem of the calla lily was used as a medical treatment for dressing wounds in South Africa. Now the flowers are commonly used in bridal bouquets and funeral arrangements for their simple elegance and symbolic purity.


Sprenger’s Asparagus

Sprenger's asparagus is a plant native to the Cape Provinces and the Northern Provinces of South Africa. Often used as an ornamental plant, it is considered an invasive weed in many locations. It’s a highly invasive, shade-tolerant perennial plant and is very difficult to control once established due to its extensive root structure and the ability to regrow from small parts of roots.



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Sutro Stewards is a project of the San Francisco Parks Alliance, a 501(c)3 California nonprofit public benefit corporation.