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Pastor's Blog

The Marsh Calla

June 26, 2020


Earlier this spring, I saw this striking plant out at the Navarino Wildlife Area at the edge of the southwest corner of Pike’s Peak flowage, one of the flowages that has a trail around it that’s actually on a map.  I didn’t see this plant anywhere else around Pike’s Peak flowage, nor did I see it at the edge of any other flowage out at Navarino. Like a lot of plants I see out at Navarino, I’ve never seen this one before in my life.  You’d think I didn’t grow up in Wisconsin or that I spent my entire life locked up in a basement. 

You’ve probably seen a thousand of these. You probably know all about this plant.  After about an hour of research which I could have avoided if I would have called you up at 4:00 a.m. yesterday morning, I decided this is a calla palustris which is the scientific name for bog arum or water arum or marsh calla or wild calla.  You probably know it by an even more common name, and if you do, please let me know. 

Its name reminded me that it looks like a calla lily.  For several years, a family at Grace put a huge pot of gorgeous calla lilies at the edge of the walk to church on the huge metal cover over a city water drainage access.  I’ve always called all of these giant rusty wheels sewer covers.  They all seemed to have been made in Neenah.  The ones Liz and I saw in Vancouver, Washington last summer were made in Neenah.  The ones on the street in Milwaukee where I grew up were made in Neenah.  I had no idea then where Neenah was back then.  I know now.  I don’t know if there’s sewage down there, and I’m not climbing down there to find out. 

The walk to church is much more welcoming when there’s gorgeous pot of calla lilies on top of that big old rusty sewer cover.  For several years, the roots for those lilies were also available in the fall in plastic bags for anyone to take home.  The original curbside pick-up.  And a wonderful gift since they grow and bloom so abundantly, so beautifully.  Another family has potted beautiful winter arrangements by the lobby doors of the church with pine bows and birch logs and other colorful winter trimmings.  I hope you’ve noticed them.  We do tend to walk by beautiful things every day and not notice.

I didn’t walk by the marsh calla. I knelt, in fact, in the mud for several minutes trying to get a good picture. Though they do remind me of calla lilies, neither marsh calla nor calla lilies are lilies at all, but they are calla, which comes from the Greek word kallos, which means beautiful.  Marsh calla are in the family araceae.  I loved the opening paragraph of Wikipedia’s description of the family araceae so much, I just had to quote as much as “fair use” allows (50 words)

The Araceae are a family of monocotyledonous flowering plants in which flowers are borne on a type of inflorescence called a spadix … usually accompanied by … or enclosed in a spathe or leaf-like bract … This family of 114 genera [includes] about 3750 known species …

Oh, the poetry of scientific discourse!  And quite the family!  They are found all around the world, in both New and Old World tropics as well as in “northern temperate regions.”  We met another member of the family a few months ago: skunk cabbage, whose one flower is enclosed in an unfurling, leaf-like bract and is calla in its own way, as are marsh calla and calla lilies, and the people who, like the Creator, take the time to make our world a calla place!

Pastor Larry

Posted by Larry Lange