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What is a Black Calla?

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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2016
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A black calla lily, also known as a Zantedeschia, is part of the Araceae family of plants. It is neither actually black nor a lily, because true lilies are part of the Liliaceae family of plants. While appearing black from a distance, this flower is actually either a deep maroon or purple color. It was originally cultivated in the Middle East as an ornamental plant. The flowering part of the plant is shaped like a trumpet and is accompanied by oversized leaves and a long stem, making it a dominant part of gardens and bouquets.

The black calla is grown from rhizomes, or root stock. These multiply once planted, producing several flowers from one rhizome. It is a hardy flower in both the garden and the bouquet, able to grow in most soils and last for up to 10 days as a cut flower. The most common calla lily is white; black ones are exceedingly rare and encompass several varieties based on shape and color. Some varieties of this flower include the Black Crusader, Black Forest, Black Pearl and Captain Maori.

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As with most flowers, the black calla has symbolic meaning. While commonly considered the flower embodying the resurrection of Jesus Christ or of the Virgin Mary, it is often used to signify both mystery and grace. They also can stand for negative emotions or events, such as saying goodbye or as a final gift at the end of a relationship. Their color and shape means black calla lilies are also associated with both decadence and lustiness.

While a beautiful flower and a favorite among many gardeners, the black calla is toxic if ingested. It contains calcium oxalate crystals that cause nearly unbearable burning and irritation to the mouth, lips and tongue. Consumption of this plant can lead to vomiting and difficulty swallowing. While this is not typically an issue for adults who are likely to know better than to eat the plant, the beauty of this flower and its interesting shape are often draws for both small children and household pets.

These flowers can grow from 18 inches to 40 inches (45 cm to 100 cm). They commonly bloom during the first half of summer, and garden varieties need to be removed from the ground before first frost in the fall so they can be over-wintered inside. The rarity of the black calla and its related expense means that many experienced gardeners will follow this path to preserve their investment, rather than planting new rhizomes every spring.

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